What are some of your insecurities as a mom? One of the biggest ones for me is that I’m not playful enough. This may seem ridiculous, but I really struggle with engaging in unstructured activities. I’m great at being on time, serving healthy food, setting boundaries, communicating with my children, creating structure but maintaining flexibility. I can set up play dates and bring all of the necessary supplies, but when it comes to chasing my kids around or playing outside, I’m just at a loss.
When people come over to help me with my kids, I watch them and take mental notes, so I can mimic them. I would never think to put my kids on a blanket and drag them around the room (and then the one time I try it, I accidentally pull the blanket too hard, and they smack their heads on the floor). I would never think to teach them how to tap their feet to music. I would never think to teach them how to play patty cake. I literally feel like all I know how to do is color. That’s all I got.
Sometimes I feel like I’m just not fun or creative enough, and I begin to feel really guilty when my kids act out from being cooped up. I feel really guilty when we put on another movie because we’ve already run through my very short list of playful activities.
Well today I decided to try a new game, and I was very proud of myself for it. The girls received a Let’s Go Fishin’ board game for their birthday, and I’ve been waiting to bring it out until I was relatively sure they wouldn’t eat the pieces. Well, after a couple of days of staying home, I decided we needed something new. So I grabbed the box, and sat on the couch to open it in front of them. They were climbing up my back, “What is it mama? What is it?”
I’m beaming. “It’s a new game we’re going to play.” I open the box and put the game on the table. I flip the switch on, but nothing happens. Great. I probably need batteries.
I get up and retrieve a screw driver from the garage. I read the directions, and it says to open the battery compartment at the bottom. So I flip the board game over to access the slot for the battery, and all of the fish fall all over the kitchen table and floor. Awesome. I feel like an idiot. I flip the game back over, and there is a very clearly labeled battery compartment on the front that can be accessed easily, without losing all of the pieces.
By this point, R is pointing and yelling. “Mama play! Mama play game!”
“One second honey. Mama has to do batteries.”
“Yes honey, fix the batteries.”
This buys me a couple of minutes while I scour our kitchen and garage for a C battery (which I had to google because I didn’t know what it looked like). I find one. Eureka! I unscrew the lid, slip the battery in, and seal it back up. I flip the on switch, and nothing happens. What?! Maybe I put the battery in the wrong way. I flip the battery around. Still doesn’t work.
R has begun throwing a toddler sized tantrum. “Fick batteries! Play game!”
And I just start crying. It seems so silly to write this, but I just felt like a failure. I was so proud of myself for introducing a new game, and I couldn’t even get it to work. I couldn’t even put the battery in without spilling the fish everywhere. And for someone like myself who is an overachiever and reformed perfectionist, an inability to accomplish simple tasks is incredibly embarrassing.
I consider myself pretty intelligent and skilled, but unstructured children’s games absolutely baffle me. Where do the ideas come from? How long do we do it for? I’ll probably get tired, and then they’ll cry about it. What activity can we engage in that will not end with crying? None. Absolutely non. Etc etc until I’m so exhausted, we just have a snack and watch a movie, and then I feel guilty for the movie time.
My mom told me I was very independent as a child, and I was content to read books and entertain myself. This has mollified me a bit because it allows me to accept that this is simply part of my nature. With this acceptance, I have found a little more confidence to try and fail. I can try games with my kids, and they don’t have to work the way they were designed for them to be fun. The important thing is that we’re doing them together.
So I pick up my Let’s Go Fishin’ game board and head to the coffee table with the little fishing poles. The girls were squealing with laughter. I showed them how to catch the stationary fish with the polls, and the girls continued to play with the game board for the next 30 minutes. They didn’t even fight about having to share it!
This has encouraged me to keep trying to play new games and to be kind to myself when they don’t turn out as expected. Are my kids smiling? Great. Are they laughing? Double great. Are we enjoying our precious time together? Mission accomplished.