I hate playing with my children.

There, I said it.

Don't Break the IceI hate tea parties.
I hate Stratego, and Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders, and Hungry Hungry Hippos, Lucky Ducks, and especially Don’t Break the Ice.
I hate pretending I’m an animal.
I can’t stand holding little toys and making them have conversations with each other.
I really don’t enjoy activities where all the cushions and pillows from my couches are spread haphazardly on the floor throughout my house.
I would rather clean out my closets than use a silly, high voice and make Webkinz tell jokes to each other while they bonk each other on the head.

 

I am a horrible person.
And I’m not even being sarcastic.

This is exactly why I was afraid to have children in the first place. I knew that I was not endowed with the type of personality that would ever land me a job in a preschool or day-care environment. My gifts and talents seem to be best geared toward the few-steps-past-elementary-school and beyond kind of crowd.

And yet here I am.
A mother of three small children. They love to play.
And they want me to play with them, which I am as excited to do as I am to train for a marathon. Sometimes it feels that hard.

Part of the reason I had them in bulk was so that they would play with each other, and I must confess that usually that’s a good strategy. But they still want me, and I got the feeling today that maybe they wouldn’t fight me so much on the things that I want them to do if I were more accommodating occasionally on the things they want to do.

(You’re allowed to say things like “duh.” I can’t hear you.)

Earlier this week, I read this post by Erin where she talked about play being a child’s language of love. (I felt a little too guilty to comment.)

Then today, as I was cleaning up the playroom, I found this quote on the floor that used to be taped to the television before we implemented our what-you-will-surely-think-is-crazy rule of no TV on weekdays (which by the way has been way less dreadful than I feared it would be, but I’ll save that for another post if you even happen to care). The quote by Elder M. Russell Ballard says:

“Families need unstructured time when relationships can deepen and real parenting can take place. Take time to listen, to laugh, and to play together.”

So, rather than just feel guilty, I went back and looked at his talk about motherhood that the quote came from, and found this phrase there:

“There is no one perfect way to be a good mother. Each situation is unique. Each mother has different challenges, different skills and abilities, and certainly different children.”

So I tried to focus on my own skills for a minute. This is how I play with my children: I sing songs with them. I wrestle. I read them books. Lots and lots of books. I like to go to the zoo or aquarium or museum with them. I like to answer their questions about the world around them.  Sometimes we make cookies. I like to play outside with them (when it’s warm). I print out pictures for them to color and then I applaud their amazing art skills. I ask them questions about their friends and their day.

Maybe I’m not a horrible person.
I can do better because, come on, how hard is it really to play a dumb game for five minutes? And they would love it. So in some ways, I need to stop making excuses and “sacrifice” with just a little more joy. But, I can also focus on my strengths and “play” them up.

And though I was nervous about having children, and certainly nervous about my own abilities, I have never regretted the choice to be a mother.  I love these three kids more than I love anything else in the whole world.  Sure, my life might be “easier” without them, but it would also be much, much emptier.  They deserve more of me, and I deserve more of the lovey-huggy-warm stuff that automatically happens when I give them more of myself.

But I still might throw away Don’t Break the Ice.