Today I decided to play. My kids were caught off guard.
Daddy is Mr. Fun Time, he’s strong, spontaneous, quick to laugh, and agreeable. He wears costumes on a regular Thursday and makes up words almost every meal. He serves pancakes on Saturday mornings, plays video games, board games, and ping pong, and is always up for wrestling. I do none of these things.
Well, Daddy had to leave for a business trip at 6:30am on a Sunday. So here we go.
When we got home from church I heard many hands pawing through lego bins. I wandered in the room and sat on the floor.
Kids: Mom, what are you doing?
Me: I’m playing legos.
Kids: Tell us what pieces you want! What are you making? Have you seen the robot chickens I’m making? Can you build Minecraft stuff?
I made a house for robot ninja dogs. They were kind and encouraging.
After legos I asked, “Do you want to eat cheese balls and watch The Amazing Race?” We all ran downstairs, snuggled on the couch, let our fingers get orange. I tried to keep it light but I couldn’t help myself from giving a 3 minute lecture on how Lying Is Never Good.
I gave them quick lunches and we raced through the backpack and lunch prep for school. The big kids read while Greta and I finished her presentation on the trip to Haiti. (I think power point is fun.)
We played Rummikub next. I play games 4-6x/year, so this was big. Greta helped me and we won. They were shocked when I agreed to play a second time. Caleb would play any game 14 times, so I always feel bad. But two times is better than zero times.
Then I said we could go on a golf cart adventure. We live in Peachtree City, Georgia, which has more golf carts per capita than any other city on earth. I was quite scornful of this image, but I have to say zipping under the trees on 90 miles of golf cart path is still new, fun, and relaxing. Autumn in Georgia is beautiful.
I let them pick which direction to go when the path forked, and we got to know some new neighborhoods. Caleb got to ride shotgun, move the cart into forward or reverse, and turn on the lights in tunnels. So, he pretty much drove.
Then we had dinner at Wendy’s. I don’t see how this is fun, but they thought it was. The toy in Greta’s meal was a kit “for parents and kids to recapture how to play together.” It was instructions and pieces for Kick the Can and Capture the Flag. I promised I would try to learn these crazy new games by next weekend.
We zipped across the parking lot to the Kroger for a few groceries. I let Caleb drive the shopping cart and Zoë select the groceries while I waited at the deli. They were their own little gang.
Then I got everyone Starbucks for the chilly ride home. Warm Soy Vanillas and Hot Ciders. Caleb kept hoping everyone would think he got coffee, “Gee, my coffee is delicious! It really hits the spot. I guess I’ll be up all night!” I didn’t shush him.
We drove home on a newly discovered path and they talked about their bus rides, compared PTC to Wheaton, pointed out faces in the tree trunks.
That was it. When we got home it was time to get ready for bed. There was no applause for my effort. No one left a note on my pillow thanking me for my undivided attention. It wasn’t a laugh riot. It wasn’t the Best Day Ever.
But I think it was better than my normal plan. My Sundays are about reading, talking to a friend on the phone, making a big meal, and/or falling asleep in a bad position in a chair. None of those things are bad, but none of them include my kids. They are fully seen and known by their Dad on Sundays, but I wonder if he might want some alone time every once in a while?
I have a lot to re-learn about playing. I’m rigid and tired. I wanted to zone on my phone at least 50 times today. I don’t like being read the comics. I pick, nag, critique, and shush so much. I want to change.
I’d like to surrender at least part of my weekends to free time with my kids. I will leave my phone and introverted fatigue behind and let them teach me how to play again. I think this means I’m sometimes going to have to get sweaty, be loud, do board games, and maybe learn to burp the alphabet. Hopefully, they will still sometimes want to bake, color with gel pens, read while snuggling, and watch movies, which are my Favorite Things. But I want to let them drive what we do. For at least an hour or two.
I bought these tiny wooden Mooshka dolls for Greta months ago. We have never played with them together. I hope we will next weekend.
10/26/15 – Update – I did it! Greta and I did play the next weekend. I woke up with a tremendous head cold eager to stay put. But Greta came to my bedside fully dressed with a pink sparkly purse across her chest and declared “Everything is ready!”
I followed her in the kitchen to find every inch of counter space covered with everything you might need to mix, bake, frost, and decorate cupcakes. She intended to do it all herself, I was just the chaperone. She did great. (No aprons, no correcting, no unsolicited tips. I’m learning!)
After eating lots of batter we went upstairs to play with those cute wooden Mooshkas and finally set up her Playmobil castle. It’s been waiting since we moved 4 months ago. It looked like the kingdom had fallen and the castle was abandoned. We were together 2.5 hours. I liked it. I look forward to seeing what she plans for us next.
I am unfolding the idea of Surrender throughout the month of October.
Yesterday’s story of Surrender: Kintsukuroi – I Guess We Have to be Broken
To read more about our shared spiritual journey and questions, you can read here: Soul
© Aimee Fritz and Family Compassion Focus, 2015.
oh, honey, i was not the fun parent either! i was the Lego Queen, but that really only applied to assembling, not playing. other than that–and building wooden train track layouts when he was younger–i wasn’t up for much. my good friend tells me i lack whimsy. it’s very true.
you are learning a valuable lesson while there’s still time. i see you as a very engaged parent, but that’s different than being the playful parent. don’t be too hard on yourself; they do need to learn how to entertain themselves. but i hear your heart and commend your self-examination.