Thursday, April 17, 2008

learning to play

A couple of months ago I got a flyer in the mail about a class a supposedly well-known psychologist was teaching about learning to play with your children. I almost threw it away with the junkmail, but then stopped to read further about how because play is so important for a child's growth and development, that as a parent, it is also your responsibility to learn to nurture this activity and play with your child. And, that being a "good player" and letting your child lead helps them develop confidence and leadership skills.


I believe I'd do pretty much everything to make sure my kids are well nurtured, cared for, loved, and educated. They play sports, love art, music, and they're learning a second language. I work outside the home, I work inside the home, I make lunches (okay, that doesn't always work out perfectly), read them stories and books while cuddling, and I tuck them lovingly into bed 6 out of 7 nights a week.

And now I'm supposed to feel guilty because I don't play with them? Or rather, I don't play with them correctly?

I do play with them sometimes. I love playing outside and running around the jungle gym pretending with them that the grass is hot lava. I love hide and seek (for at least a bit), and I love wrestling on the rug with them in tussles that usually end with a lot of tickling. I don't mind dressing up baby dolls sometimes and I get a kick out of Samuel's storylines when he's pestered into playing Barbies with Talia and ends up having his stuffed animals and action figures force Barbie and her gal pals out of their Dream House and onto the playroom street. There are games I love to play with them. So why should I have to learn to play the ones I don't?

The pamphlet said learning to let the child lead and even be bossy is a good thing, and that the parent should go along with them. Or when playing a game that involves winning and losing, you should wean your child gently into losing by letting them win fewer and fewer games. What about learning consequences? What about learning that if you can't play by the rules, your friends won't want to play with you, nevermind your mom and dad? What about learning that everyone likes to win sometimes?

And the literature repeated a couple of times that when your child is grown, s/he won't be remembering how clean the kitchen was--that playing with your child is much more worthwhile. I'll buy that. And I practice that for the most part and don't really work or do many chores while the kids are up. But even that seems questionable. Isn't it okay for your kid to know that chores aren't always fun and that the sparkly dishes fairy doesn't come in the middle of the night to do them? And, to be perfectly honest, tonight, after getting Naomi to bed and Tali was at her t-ball game, Samuel wanted me to play this story game he'd created with his K'nex and all I really wanted to do after a long day was process the day and do the dishes... very... quietly... without... talking.

"Please, Mommy. We're never alone," he says to me. Okay, I'm a sucker. So I sit down to play with these figures he's made and I can't for the life of me figure out how they're supposed to look like people and robots, but I do admire his creativity. The storyline is that this one robot has gone from good to evil and his suckers will suck up anything, even little K'nex boys. We scream and make the little figures run and it is fun. For exactly 1.75 minutes. And then I'm done. I can't think about what to make my guy say and all I want to do is the dishes. Or anything else.

"Maybe we can play something like Scrabble?" I suggest. Samuel is an incredible Scrabble player for a seven year old.

"Mommmmmmyyy... Just play this," he says. He wants me there. So play or not, I hang out with him for a while longer.

The thing is, I know he knows I don't want to play the game, but that I want to be with him. And I can tell he's okay with that, which makes me feel proud of him. We stay like that until Boaz and Tali get home from the game and the house is loud again. But for awhile, we sit silently, Samuel moving his figures along to a story in his head and then sometimes just looking up and smiling while I just sit with him. And we're both getting something we need.


Becky said...

You are such a great Mom! Throw that literature away!
I'm the same way. Ben will want to play "Pet Store" with me. I cave in because I rarely play with him. But I can only handle playing Pet Store for MAYBE 6 minutes. Then me and my new puppy go on an adventure called LAUNDRY!

Erin said...

Hey Amy-

It's Erin your fellow former Wedgwood yoga dropout. I was attempting to organize my computer today in a desperate attempt to avoid actual work. I found your blog when I was going through my bookmarks (you see how far into the "organizing" I was?!) I must have bookmarked you back in the day...and then promptly forgot about it. I did read your latest entry and for what it's worth-learning how to play is clearly someone's attempt to make money by playing off mommy guilt. Horrible person!

Anyway, hope you are doing well. Drop me an email if you get a chance:
I don't have many mom friends to chat with. All my peeps are young and single, and don't care about the excitement of Maggie pooping in the toilet.