Play with me?

PlayCollage

It is the 20th day of February, and Mother Nature is dumping some more snow on us here in Minnesota. I am looking outside my window as I type, and I feel like I am inside a snow globe. Whoever is shaking this globe, please stop! It was pretty the first time, but I am over it now. Really, I don’t remember ever hating winter as much as I have this year. It’s been cold. My back still hurts from shoveling earlier this week. And the kids and I are going crazy in this house.  Let me rephrase that: My house and children are driving me crazy. Pretty soon I’ll be trying to peel away the yellow wallpaper.

***

I am a workaholic at heart. Weird, you may be thinking, since this is coming from someone who could no longer take the pressure of working a full-time job and taking care of kids while her husband started an evening master’s program last winter. Yeah, weird. But it’s true. I am a workaholic. If I am not working on something –anything –I feel useless. Being a stay-at-home mom for the majority of the week certainly does require doing a lot of work. I change diapers, I am potty-training my daughter, I make three meals a day, I do the dishes and laundry, I pay the bills, I take the kids grocery shopping, I clean the house (sort of), I shovel, I keep track of our schedule of activities and events, I bathe the children, and I try to get some writing and reading done when the kiddos are sleeping. Yeah, I am running an entire operation over here. However, taking care of my kiddos also requires a lot of playing. Gasp! Yes, I have to play.

Mind blown.

As a workaholic at heart, the idea of having to play for several hours a day is actually quite terrifying. Sometimes I just can’t take it anymore and I start making up games to play with my kids that involve cleaning the house. For example, I like to play garage sale. I tell my kids that they get to have a pretend garage sale in the living room. To play, they must take out every single toy that is in their rooms and put it on display in the living room. While they are busy moving their toys from their rooms to the living room, I am busy dusting their shelves and cleaning their floors. When I am done cleaning, I go shopping at the garage sale. I pick out items I want to buy, and then I put these items back in my kids’ rooms. For about two minutes, before the kids have noticed what I have done, I bask in the beauty of their clean and organized rooms. I feel like I have accomplished something. And then it’s time to play again, and five minutes later we are pretending that a tornado has hit their tidy rooms. This is the point where I take a hit from my inhaler to prevent an asthma attack. It’s chaos. This play thing goes against everything I have worked for prior to having kids. But you know what? This play thing also brings me down to earth. This play thing has saved me. My kids are saving me.

***

I like organization. I feel good when my house is clean. Routines and schedules comfort me. I had all of this before becoming a mother. When I had all of this, I felt accomplished. It was clear that I was responsible. It was clear that I took care of myself. It was clear that I had it together at home and at work. After having my son, I quickly learned that I would have to work harder to meet and exceed my expectations for myself. After our daughter was born, it became increasingly difficult to live up to the expectations I had set for myself. I began to think that I was a failure. I was no longer finding enjoyment in my work –any of it. I was no longer happy at my job, I was unhappy at home, and I was unhappy with myself. As a workaholic at heart, one would think that I had derived some sort of pleasure from all of this. However, my expectations for myself were no longer realistic and true. From the moment my son was born, I was changed forever. I didn’t know this right away, of course. I knew life would be very different as a mother. But I didn’t understand at the time how such a tiny being could teach me so much about myself that I never knew or fully paid attention to. Since the moment of their births, my children have been breathing chaos into my mind, heart and soul. It is terrifying and beautiful. All I can do now is embrace motherhood and this chaos one day at a time.

***

My kids have saved me, and they continue to save me every day. They do not see the dirty dishes piling up on the counter after each meal. They do not see the heaps of dirty laundry on my bedroom floor. They do not see the mess of toys strewn about the house. They see endless possibilities for fun. They see opportunities to learn. They see that they are not alone. They want to share their experiences with me because their experiences are exciting. They want to share what they have learned because they are proud. And they want me to encourage them to continue to explore the world around them. This is play. The most exciting experience of the day may include playing with a cardboard box, chasing each other while pretending to be crocodiles, or jumping in piles of laundry fresh out of the dryer. This is play. The most traumatic experience may include a skinned knee from completing an obstacle course in the basement, or enduring what seems like an eternity of screaming as I give my children the opportunity to try to resolve a quarrel without my intervention. This is play. The most creative experience may involve getting messy with paint, building fairy houses with the toys that are tossed about on the floor, or making up a new game called ‘Pumpkin Pie’. This is play. As a mother who stays home most of the week with my kids, this type of play lasts for hours every single day. Now do you see why I am somewhat terrified by the thought of another winter storm that will prevent us from leaving the house for an entire day or two?

No, we have not been stuck at home all winter long. We actually do get out of the house quite often to go to the library, the Minnesota Children’s Museum, the Mall of America, Como Zoo and the Minnesota Zoo. However, nearly all of our time has been spent indoors the past few months since it has been such a cold winter. We have been deprived of being able to run free outside at the park. We have been deprived of sunlight. We have been deprived of fresh air for far too long now. And I am starting to run out of ideas of how to keep my kids entertained and busy for 12 hours every day. I have searched Pinterest for playtime ideas and read various articles and blog posts about the benefits of play. I recently became a member of the Minnesota Children’s Museum Smart Play Ambassador program to become more involved with promoting smart play and sharing my experiences with my kids at the museum. And I have been doing a little research on play to gain new insights on what my kids are experiencing while they play and what I can do as a parent to encourage play and learning through play. I know playtime isn’t that complicated, but this is me trying to survive playtime indoors. And this is me learning from my kids that playtime is good and necessary, even for adults.

My kids have saved me, and they continue to save me every day. We have built stronger connections with each other through play. I learn more each day about who my children are when I watch them play. I see their strengths. I see what challenges them. And we create more happiness in our home when we play. Playtime with my kids has saved me because I feel a stronger connection with my kids –a connection I had longed for last year when I began to feel overwhelmed by work and family life. Playtime with my kids has saved me because it allows me to become more engaged with my children and less focused on the mess in my house and my to-do list. Playtime gives me the opportunity to feel free and to be more creative and imaginative. Playtime opens my mind; it helps me to see my potential. Playtime with my kids saves me from focusing too much on work and serious matters. Play does not come easy for me, but my kids have no problem showing me how it’s done.

***

This is me today. I am not the same person I was yesterday, and I will not be the same person tomorrow. My kids will not allow it. In their minds, there are endless possibilities in life. They don’t see boundaries and obstacles the same way I do as an adult. They do not have the same fears I have. Their minds and hearts run wild and free. It’s so unfamiliar to me, but it is beautiful. All my children want is for me to see what they see and to feel free like them. I no longer possess their innocence, I have limitations and responsibilities as an adult, and I live with many fears; however, I need to try. I need to try for my kids. I want to try. I want to try for them and for myself. I have many flaws – I always will. But I can show my kids that there is much to gain from trying. I can show my son and daughter that it is never too late to pursue new goals and interests. I can show my children that we are all creatures of God. We are not perfect; we never will be. There is always time and room to become better and happier people. And there is time to play and explore the world, because these experiences do help us to learn, to open our minds, to connect with others, and to become better and happier people.

What do you say? Come play with me? Forget about the yellow wallpaper that is starting to peel.

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67 thoughts on “Play with me?

  1. Very inspiring read. I can relate to a lot of what you shared about how your children have changed you. And I can relate to the “chore” of having to play. But like you said, children teach us way more than we could ever imagine. I’m very grateful for the wonderful life lessons I’ve picked up from my toddler. Yes, we have much to learn from little people. Bless!

  2. I too have been through the cycle of playing games that are related to cleaning the house. I only have one mini but she’s at the age of inquisition and boundary testing. So we’re learning together. Thanks for the beautiful reminder that it’s ok to play and not have everything figured out!

  3. My mom was never that much into playing either. She tried, but it was hard to find new ideas before Pinterest and social media. Enter my sister, with her bottomless well of creativity. She had us playing “train” (using the carpet runner as tracks), “merri-go-round” (by placing all the toy horses in a circle and then running around them), “washing machine” (using the giant plastic cubes handed down from my cousins), and dozens of other games and fantasies almost as soon as she could talk. A few of our ideas were mine, but most were hers. I just left it to the master. Won’t be able to do that if I ever have kids of my own.

    That “garage sale” idea is brilliant by the way. I used to work with a lady who said her mom used to get her and her siblings to clean out the kitchen cupboards in much the same way. “Time to play grocery store!”

  4. I love so much reading the experiences of mothers that are so…real, and honest, and display so well the chaos of being a mother. I enjoy it because I am terrified of it and excited for it, apprehensive and yet feeling as prepared as I’ll ever be. I’m scared I won’t be able to do it well. That I won’t be a good mother. That I won’t be able to handle the job. That I won’t be able to hold it together. And now, now I am expecting and I have a good eight months ahead of me and I think when it truly sinks in that I’ll have a baby soon, I’ll start freaking out. But I want to have a child so badly…
    So thank you. It’s a little less scary when I know it’s not just me. That being a mom is chaos and that probably what I’m feeling is par for the course, and when I have two or three (or even just the one) children who bless my life and drive me crazy, I can remember you, and a few other blogging mommies, and I can think, “I’m not alone. I’m doing the best I can, and that is enough.”
    Thank you.

    • Yes, that is enough 🙂

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! Life is not simple while raising kids, but it is certainly rewarding in so many ways. Congrats to you! Wishing you the best in your new journey of motherhood.

  5. Is so true! Many of us dread it and when we actually are mindful and in the moment it’s not too bad. I think what’s sometimes hard for us is the monotony of their games battling with the motivation we had finally worked up to finally do some chore that needs to be done. Ty for your honesty so more ppl realize it’s normal and nothing inherently wrong with it!

      • Lol. My daughter use to never let me improvise either. She use to tell me how to perform, what to say etc. the things we do….

  6. Great post. As a mum of 2 and on maternity leave number 2 I feel a sense of panic when the mess is building up around us and all my son wants is for me to play train with him on the floor. It’s hard to let go of the inner perfectionist! But all they want is mummy and that is an amazing feeling x

  7. One of my favorite statements (and song) is Teach your Children well… I now get to use this theory with my grandchildren and it’s different for me and great… you didn’t skip a generation and that too is great! Enjoy 🙂

  8. I’m not a parent yet, but experienced a similar situation with my niece. Thanks for the reminder to stop trying to be “Super Auntie” and instead just genuinely hang out with and enjoy her.

  9. Beautiful! Love your story and self-reflection. My job at a hospital involves helping children remember how to play even during traumatic medical encounters. It’s another lovely way of mixing work and play together. We often say that play is the work of children. I think it should be our work, too!

  10. Wonderful read! I struggle with stopping and playing with my children too. And I am a recent work-holic, turned stay at home mom. Its been a harder transition than I ever imagined. Due to some family issues, my husband and I decided it would be best for me to leave my decade long career, which I worked 7 years of it from home, so one would think since I was at home already, this would be a breeze, but oh wrong-o! Its been hard for me to feel fulfilled at the end of the day by having done “only” my motherly duties. But, in all honesty, I think that is because I am still operating on the old work from home me. The one who simultaneously worked and ran a load of laundry. Made a business call while picking up a child from school. I never, hardly ever, stopped to incorporate play with my kids into my day. This post has given me great pause. Thank you so very much for the important reminder! Best~ Julie

  11. Great Post and I just found you. I was a sick little kid and spent much of my childhood in the hospital. My 3 kids have taught me alot about playing and seeing the world through the eyes of a child.

  12. I quit my job a little over 2 years ago when I found out I was preggers with child 3. Yes…just preggers, not even birthed yet. It was so difficult to stay at a job I no longer cared about. It was easy to quit, with a bit of discussion with my husband first. It was the best decision ever. Although I sometimes feel drained, disgusted with the housekeeping and have yet to achieve pro stay at home mom status, I’m glad I did it. I look forward to reading more of ur blog. 🙂

  13. Very interesting entry. Your phrase “my kids have saved me” remind me of the lyrics of the song “Mary did you know..” where it says at some point “..and the son that you delivered, would soon deliver you..” : )

    I find it great that there are still women who are willing to “sacrifice” their “career” in order to take care of their children and husband. Actually, you might as well call me conservative, but I do believe that the role of a woman is that of the caretaker, without this meaning that a woman is not allowed to pursue her personal interests. I am not a mother yet, so I cannot talk from experience, but I tend to have a family-oriented trail of thought. I have been asking myself what I wanna do in and with my life, and the answer is always “have my own family and take great care of them. Become a role model for my kids, teach them different useful things and simultaneously teach myself too, and be taught by my children too.”

    I believe that we, women, lost sight of our purpose, somewhere along the road to progress. Please note that I do not mean to say that we are supposed or obliged to stay at home and raise kids, but when our children do come in this world, we are supposed to become their mentors in every way possible. This again, not meaning that we have to give up on our own interests, but let our children become a part of them too. Play is vital for children to instill in them the most profound values and life lessons, in a fun and constructive way.

    Furthermore, I do believe that children are one of the greatest blessings. Jesus said that unless we become like children we will not be able to enter God’s kingdom. And I think this phrase has a lot of meaning behind. As adults we have forgotten how to actually enjoy life and each other, and children not only help us rediscover that simplicity and truthfulness, but also enhance our understanding of our relationship with God. The time we spend with our spouse and our children is one of our most valuable “possessions”. They become our mirrors in so many ways..

  14. I set up a fairy garden in the dining room for my daughter’s birthday, and she is beside herself waiting for her party. It has been fun. But I wimped out and decorated sugar cookies and frosted cupcakes while they were in bed. We baked together, but I just couldn’t face more chaos with food coloring involved. Child play can be a hurricane of fun, devastating all in its path. Great post!

  15. So very true….life is really challenging for a stay at home mama….it gives immense pleasure and satisfaction with the happiness of being complete when we see the smile of our child in anything they do and at the same time it seems quite hectic,tiring and frustrating when we solely have to look after everything:be it baby or the chores.

    My 18 mon old son keeps me occupied in a similar manner.He loves to play when I’m around.And I just love it

  16. sweet and thought-provoking post 🙂 x i believe you are an amazing mother- giving so much attention to your kids. It takes great strength to be a mother..I think you should be really proud of yourself and stop being hard on yourself..You are you for a reason…xxx

  17. Wow, I feel like I’m reading my story here. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is AnnMarie Roselli-Kissack I once carried a business card that made me feel very special. I was an Art Director for an Educational Publishing Company and I could multi-task like nobody’s business. I got married. I had two kids. I left my job to be a stay-home-mom and had an identity crisis. I was chasing my first child around and putting every toy she dropped back into its proper color-coded basket. Fast-forward to today. It gets better now I’m a stay-near-home mom. I love my kids and my giant husband but I found me too. Apparently I was hiding in old sweat pants. I’m writing, blogging, making art again…
    Thank you for putting your heart thoughts out there to share – it’s not always an easy thing to do. Your honesty and warmth ripple across your blog like an infant’s smile. Life continues moving forward, playing makes the trip first-class….
    AnnMarie
    newbie blogger

  18. This is a fantastic idea to both manage household chores while allowing children to play. I am sure putting this on my to-do list when my sonny grows a lil older. thanks

  19. Pingback: I have something for you. | why i left my job

  20. Great post! Had to comment to let you know that I’m stealing the garage sale game!! I’ll have to try to remember to come back and post how it works out for us! 😄

  21. Loved this post! Am exactly in this same spot now. Was feeling sick unable to forgive my office folks, because of whom I left my heftily paying job. But I find my life bouncing back with all the time I am able to enjoy with my eight year old boy. I’ve lost most of his toddler days because of my extremely stressful job as an Instructional Designer here in India.

    You’ve inspired me through this post! Thank you so much, Aimee! God bless.

  22. Wasn’t for sure where to leave the comment for my extra entries, but my favorite game/thing to do growing up would be playing games outside with the neighbors ie) Hide and Seek, Kick the Can, etc

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