i don’t always play with my kids

I don't always play with my kids, but here is why. #momlife #mamaheart #momshare #balancedmotherhood

As I sit here, I am listening to my older daughter color by herself in another room.  Of all of the sounds of young motherhood, the self-chatter during play is my favorite.  Innocent and honest, it’s a chance to hear her thoughts. “What should I draw next?  Owelette. Yes, that’s good.”  Self-chatter is a chance for me to understand how her internal dialogue is shaping.

I don't always play with my kids, but here is why.  #momlife #mamaheart #momshare #balancedmotherhoodIf I was coloring with her, things would be different.  She would be working to direct me and impress me at the same time.  She would feel my attention shift from her to dinner, back to her, back to dinner.  But in her solo play, she is making her own heart happy. She is being creative, she is working to grow without realizing it.  

We’ve heard that play is the work of childhood.  It’s such a beautiful sentiment. And sometimes, if we are being honest, I feel like I mess play up.  Because for kids, play is magical. It is an institution, both a verb and a noun, a language for them to process how their little selves fit into a big and changing world.  I am a boring adult, restrained to the confines of schedules and taxes and knowledge of gravity. I am certain I bring my boringness to play. So why do my kids always want to play with me?

No matter if I am dull, my kids want to play with me because I am Mom.  I am their beginning, their familiar, their protector, their problem solver.  I can solve the riddles of play. I can cut and tape, I can sew beads onto almost anything, I can control all the switches in the house with ease.  At this age, they don’t think I ruin play. They think I enhance it with my mad skills.

They always want me to play.  And in this, I consistently feel the stab of guilt when I have to say no to the innocent voice saying “Mommy, will you play with me?”  

Play is not the work of my world anymore.  And although I know this, and I can justify it, I still scold myself for missing that chance.  I recall the internet memes and chatter reminding me that someday, they will no longer ask me to play.  I’ve been warned countless times at the grocery store that someday, I will miss this. I know that, and it terrifies me.  But dinner must be made, clothes must be washed, work emails must be sent: my role in life is multifaceted. I’d love to drop everything, every time they ask.

I don't always play with my kids, but here is why. I can't always play with my kids, but my kids are always playing. Balance in motherhood, teaching them respect through modeling, and playing well when we make the time are all critical. #momlife #mamaheart #momshare #balancedmotherhood

But what would that teach them about give and take, about patience, about boundaries?

Practically speaking, in a moment where play isn’t an option for Mommy, sometimes just our brief but genuine attention is enough.  If we get on their level, make eye contact, and let them know when we can play, this effort goes a long way.  In this, our children know they are important to us.  We model for them respectful boundaries. We show them how to ask for what we need. Kids have a one-track mind, and they can’t be expected to honor boundaries we don’t set.

As a mom, we are a teacher first.  We teach our children about the world, about their faith, about themselves, and about others.  In this, there is a lesson to be learned by waiting, by entertaining themselves, by watching Mom respond to the stresses of life with grace and humility.  Our kids don’t notice that we can’t always play, however, they do always notice our reaction to the question.  They notice our reaction to everything.   In motherhood, our reactions are as important as our actions.  

I don't always play with my kids, but here is why.  #momlife #mamaheart #momshare #balancedmotherhood

We cannot cheapen all we do for our kids by lamenting what we don’t.  Play is sacred to childhood. Distracting ourselves from a present moment by mourning a moment lost to the past doesn’t bring anything back.  This guilt trip is not helpful, it is not practical, and it does no good for anyone involved.

Our kids don’t always need us to be involved in their play for it to be memorable; instead, we can help by observing from a distance.  We can encourage without hovering. Kids are masters of play, they will outdo us every time. Yet, the ability to self-regulate and a strong sense of self-confidence are things our children will gain with opportunities to practice.  

Through intention, my daughters will learn the role of a mommy has many layers.  Through direction, they will learn how to respect boundaries. Through attention, they will rest confidently in the fact that they are critical to my world; but they will have to cope with the fact that I can’t always do what they want when they want it.  

I don't always play with my kids, but here is why.  #momlife #mamaheart #momshare #balancedmotherhood

And they will remember the times that I did play.  Because when I play, I make funny voices.  I chase, I pretend, I wrestle, I laugh for real.  I love them so fiercely and fully, I can’t help but be captivated by them.  

Because when I play, I do it presently. 

I do it well.

I don't always play with my kids, but here is why. #momlife #mamaheart #momshare #balancedmotherhood

8 responses to “i don’t always play with my kids”

  1. Love this ….

  2. Beautifully written as always. And yes in not playing sometimes they are learning to play by themselves ❤️

  3. Mama I love this so much. There is so much truth in this. Kids need to play on their own and I love how you say when I play with my kids I am intential and present. That is the key! Quality over quantity! Great read!

  4. There is so much wisdom in here! I agree, it’s important to for our kids and us as moms to find that balance in playing with them and letting them nurture their own playtime!

  5. […] Kristine shows the value in not always being our kids’ constant playmate. I loved reading her insight and perspective, and if you’re a parent wondering how to balance the tension of engaging with your kids but not being their 24/7 entertainment, read her thoughts here. […]

  6. I love this! I also feel bad when I can’t play and my son is asking me to, but it is so much fun to also see how he plays independently and grows through that. And it’s so true that when I take the time to do what I need as a mom and an adult, I can be more present when I do play.

  7. This is such a beautiful post. I can relate to this ok so many levels. My kids are always asking me as their mom to play with them and while sometimes I can, other times there are other necessary things that need to be done. I wish I could always play with them but it isn’t always easy to do so

  8. Make Home Warm Avatar
    Make Home Warm

    I totally agree that as a mom, it’s not always our job to play with our kids! We are empowering them to be small and smart little humans 🙂 Thanks for sharing this!

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