It’s summertime and the kids are home from school. The days are an interesting mix of lazy and full, long and quick. We make an effort to plan outings, camps, lessons, vacations and still make room for stay-home days. This can be a sweet time of connecting with our kids and we certainly don’t want to take these moments for granted. After-all, we only have 18 summers to spend with them, right?
What has surprised me most this summer, whether lazying around at home or at the swimming pool on vacation, is this frequent question from all four of our kids:
Can you play with me?
No. 1 wants me to swim with him in the deep end.
No. 2 wants me to jump with him on the trampoline.
No. 3 wants me to battle him with light sabers.
No. 4 wants me to play cousin memory with her. Again.
And what do I want to do?
Sit on the lounge chair next to the pool.
Water the plants while the kids bounce.
Clean up the toys that are already strewn about the house.
Not play another round of cousin memory.
Now don’t get me wrong; I like kids, especially my own. I also like swimming and bouncing and playing games with them. My mom was always that mom who would give us under-dogs at the park and get her hair wet at the pool. I always liked that about her. She played with us. And I want to follow her lead and be that mom to my kids as well.
But every single day this summer I’ve had this internal struggle when I hear the request can you play with me? It goes like this:
I know my kids won’t be little much longer. They won’t ask me to play with them. I will probably look back and wish I had played with them more. So, yes, even though I just took them to swim lessons and played tag at the park and bought them ice cream, and — , of course I will play with them.
I am not my children’s playmate. I have responsibilities and tasks and my own desires that also need to be addressed today. So, no, they can play on their own for a bit.
if I choose responding to email over playing with them, what does that say to them? That email is more important than they are? I never want them to feel that way. I should just play with them.
they need to know that while they are very important, my life does not revolve around them. There is more to me than ‘mommy’ and they must learn to respect that. This time, they can manage a game without me.
is that just an excuse? Am I the most incredibly selfish mother alive? Maybe I just need to suck it up and realize that parenting is one gigantic act of sacrifice. Go play with your kids, Emily.
… and round and round I go.
It’s a balance; of course it is.
Sometimes a mommy puts down what she’s doing to read a book to her daughter. Sometimes she asks her children to play in their room so she can make a phone call in peace. And sometimes she just doesn’t feel like playing legos and sits on the chair reading a new magazine instead.
It’s a balance that I haven’t figured out.
That elusive balance between saying yes and saying no. Wanting the best for our kids, but retaining our identities apart from them. Worrying that somehow if we get it wrong we’ll mess up our children for life.
Am I alone in this? I’m guessing and hoping not.
And so, please share, how does that balance work in your family?
Do you play with your kids?