I’M no good at playing toys with my kid.
I can do activities all right. Going to the library, feeding the ducks, kitchen discos, baking, reading books together, arts and crafts.
Those things I do often and do well. But actual ‘down on the floor’ playing, not so much.
Particularly imagination games – the ones where I have to be the shopkeeper, or the space ranger, or the cowboy (though I’m not allowed to wear the cowboy hat), or one of the PJ Masks.
I’m particularly bad at being Thomas the Tank Engine, especially when the script is dictated to me and I dare not deviate from it.
More and more I find myself leaving the actual playing to Yer Man and making excuses to The Beast when he asks me to play. Even though I know the benefits of play and of one-on-one time with a parent and I know how important it is for a little person’s development, I find myself running in the opposite direction when the toy box comes out.
That sounds really terrible, I know it does. I just don’t enjoy it, playing bores me. I do it, I do try, but I suffer through it and gratefully escape once any opportunity arises. (On days where I’ve spent a full hour pretending to be Shimmer and Shine complete with genie dancing I’d actual welcome Jehovah’s Witnesses to the door. I’d invite them in. They wouldn’t be able to leave!)
I can’t help feeling though that it shouldn’t be this hard. I enjoyed playing myself when I was a kid. I had Barbie dolls and teddies and cash registers and a Fashion Wheel and all of that and I would play away. And my two best friends and I played elaborate outdoor games where we’d put on singing and dancing shows, or we’d follow innocent neighbours who looked ‘suspicious’ and we’d look for clues like the Secret Seven. We played rounders and kick the can and hide-and-seek and paths and the whole works, the same as most of you reading.
So why do I have such a hard time with it now – why can’t I play with my kid? I don’t know is the answer. I guess I’m not a kid anymore myself so there’s that. And also as a parent I’ve other things to do in the day so playing would be further down the list. Chances are though, that perhaps I’m just out of practice.
Maybe I need to just force myself to do it and eventually it’ll get easier and I’ll start to enjoy it? The way
insufferable bores exercise fanatics say it happens for them. At first they don’t want to go out and do it, but before you know it they’re skipping along doing 10ks and push ups and lunges all over the place. Perhaps after all these years I’ve lost the art of playing, it’s a skill I no longer have. But maybe like riding a bike, if you try, it’s something you never forget?
So what I’m going to do is set myself a challenge. For Lent. Instead of giving something up, I’m going to commit to actively playing with my boy for an hour every day. No excuses, no pawning him off on unsuspecting passers-by. Just me and my boy in the sitting room or the garden, playing with his toys together.
And maybe by Easter Sunday I’ll have gotten so used to it that I won’t want to stop doing it. Just like how I no longer take milk in my tea or put sugar on my cornflakes, after giving them up when I was ten. Thirty years later and I’m still going strong on those!
So, we’ll see. Bagsie I the cowboy hat!