When my children were babies I was in my element. Despite the long nights and tired days, I felt at peace caring for them. Bathing them, feeding them, and holding them close, the early months were my favorite and I felt completely comfortable carting my babies around through life.
Then the toddler years hit. As my babies grew, so too did their urge to play. I realized that this was something that I wasn’t very good at. “Playing” felt completely foreign to me, and truth be told, was not something that I enjoyed. Sitting on the floor and playing with toys always felt like a chore, which brings guilt to even admit. There is always so much stuff that needs to be done, and I couldn’t help the fact that I’d be taking a mental inventory of all of those things rather than enjoying that time. This meant that it became so much easier to just say I would play “later”, putting it off into the future until those years had past.
Though I let myself be wracked with guilt for years about this, as my kids got older I came to realize that my aversion to play did not necessarily mean that I was a bad mother. Although this was an area of parenthood where I fell short, there were other places where I shone. I’m what you might call an “free-range mom”. I love to explore nature with my kids, garden, look at bugs and barrel into the water at beaches. Truth be told, the very qualities that make me a bit of a disorganized mother, also make it so I’m in my element doing random outdoor explorations with my kids.
I also enjoy working in the kitchen, and getting my kids to help me with simple cooking. Sure it takes a little longer, and it gets a little messier, but I feel like I’m willing to put up with the chaos because it’s important for kids to be involved with everyday life tasks. Even though 10 minutes of playing Lego with my kids can feel like an eternity that comes along with all the anxiety that I’m not getting something on my to-do list done, 10 minutes in the kitchen feels fun and productive.
When it comes to artsy things, this is also my place to shine. I love to get creative with my kids, and do things like drawing or painting with them. We go to the library, read books, and I’m not too old to have a dance party with them every so often too.
I’m lucky to be in a situation where my husband takes on a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to on-the-floor play. He shines when it comes to building toys, playing cars, and generally getting down and playing with them. Although my style is a little different, it has value as well. There may be less toys, but there is still a lot of love and connection. I do get on the floor and play with them sometimes if that’s what they want, but I must admit that I can’t help but feel very out of my element when I do.
Although I don’t like playing with my kids and probably never will, I’m taking a break from letting this fuel my guilt. Instead, I’m going to let go and pat myself on the back for the places that I do shine, and recognize the fact that my kids are getting all sorts of love and attention, which is what truly matters.