The Fun Mom

I can cook for 20 people without breaking a sweat. I can do 6 loads of laundry in one day. I can bathe 4 children at the same time. I can change a mean diaper.

I’m good at managing the controlled chaos that is parenting, after all I’ve been doing this sort of thing for most of my life. Keeping the physical needs of our household met is pretty basic. Not that our house in immaculate (far from it) or I feel 100% confident in my abilities as a housekeeper (still working on that), but keeping the house running doesn’t scare me.

Babies don’t scare me either. I can nurse a baby, rock them and sing to them, snuggle them and bathe them, and wake up in the middle of the night with them. I know that Baby Boy feels safe and loved, and that’s all that a baby needs.

My one year old is pretty basic too. She loves snuggling, giggling when I tickle her toes, wants to read the same book 20,000 times, and loves pretending to be different animals. At the end of the day, I am confident that my one year old got snuggled and loved sufficiently.

But it’s a different story when it comes to my pre-schoolers. I’m not sure if it’s because I am an introvert, or because I’m hormonal. Maybe it’s because I have so many old lies in my head about my personality, or maybe it’s because I don’t have as much practice with that age as I do with babies. But I doubt myself every minute, and I feel lost trying to relate to them. At the end of the day, I find myself wondering if I hugged my 4 year old that day? Was I overly serious? Are my kids going to remember me as the quiet boring mom who fed them and wiped their bums, but didn’t really engage on any other level? I’ve always wanted to be the “fun Mom”, but I don’t think I’m that much fun to be with.

Don’t get me wrong, my 4 year old is amazingly conversational and imaginative. My 3 year old is cute and engaging and determined. But I feel clumsy and stupid when I try to do something with them.

My 3 year old often climbs up next to me and hands me a stuffed animal. “Make him talk Mom!” She demands. So I will try, I pick up the unicorn and make him say something incredibly boring about his purple mane. And then I get panicky. I can’t think of anything else to say! What does a unicorn talk about anyways? So the unicorn will make some sort of excuse and then stop talking.

If the baby is asleep, I will try to make an appearance in the backyard where the rest of the kids are playing. My 4 year old always gets so excited when I come outside. “Did you come out to play with us Mom?” I nod and sit down on the porch and wonder what to do. The monologue starts in my head. “Man, I can’t think of a single thing to do with them. They are all looking at me! Why am I still so fat and slow, I had the baby 6 weeks ago already? If only I had the energy and drive to play soccer or tag with them. Maybe I should just go in the house and let them play, they are way more imaginative than I am, I am just a damper on their ability to play.”

I will force myself to dump the blocks out on the floor and play with them, but I find myself looking at the clock again and again. “It’s only been 3 minutes? How can I be this bored already? Omygod I suck so bad at this! I can’t even manage to play with my kids for an hour straight? What is wrong with me?”

I try to remember what memories I have of my mom playing with us kids. But honestly, my mom didn’t do all that much with us besides physical care and schoolwork. As a kid I cooked and cleaned on my own and she would check my work. My mom rarely came outside at all. My good day-to-day memories of my mom involve her playing with my hair while we talked in the evenings sometimes. There was the time when I was 6 and I got to stay up late a few nights in a row and read “The Courage of Sarah Noble” with her. When I was about 12 we did a short bible study together after the other kids went to bed. I have good memories of Christmas and birthdays too. And I remember my mom allowed me to keep my little junk collection that meant so much to me.

I want my kids to know me, but sometimes I hardly feel as though I know myself. I want to enjoy being with them, but I don’t know how to just “be.” I want them to have more than just the special occasion memories. I want them to remember more than just a serious quiet mama who worked behind the scenes to keep things running. My old standby is baking with them. When I am baking I am confident, I don’t second guess myself or feel like I’m faking it. I love baking, and I love doing it with them. I can read with them too, the book is a great prop to hide my insecurities behind. But I would love to branch out, ditch the perfectionism, and add to my repertoire of ideas to be authentically present with my kids.

How do you engage and spend time with your kids? What are your favourite memories of your mom?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Liberty

    Oh my god. You have just put voice to something I've been feeling ever since my little one turned two. I've felt there was something wrong, but I couldn't figure out or articulate what it was. This is it.

    I, too, am good at crowd control and mass producing food and keeping a fit house. Hell, I have a dozen siblings. These are the things I grew up doing, and seeing my mother do. I could do all this in my sleep.

    But when I take my little girl to the park, I'm unsure what to do. I take her to play in the backyard, and I sit and read until she pulls on my shirt wanting me to…come do what? Play with her? How do I do that? My mom never did. She handed the little kids play dough or told one of us older ones to watch them playing outside and went back to cooking lunch.

    I'm trying, though. I try to build with blocks with her, building the tallest tower possible. I help her set up her doll house, placing each piece of furniture just so. I read books with her, something I did see my mother do growing up. Another idea I have had is to built forts with her, using blankets and chairs and boxes – I used to do this with my siblings – but I haven't tried that one yet. And, like you, I bake with her – and that's my favorite.

  • http://remnantofremnant.blogspot.com priest’s wife

    I am not very playful either- but we read (and I do the voices) and sing (like Mom did with me) and whenever the day gets too boring, we do bubbles. If I am feeling very adventurous, we might paint

  • http://www.ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com Young Mom

    Liberty- It's strange isn't it? I've had enough practice interacting with my own babies now to feel like I know what I am doing, and yet when I try to do anything with the older ones I lapse into the "crowd control" mentality and forget to actually interact with them.

    Priest's- Bubbles and paint are fun! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16979912092987681396 Sandra

    1. you're kinda depressed.
    2. you never really got to be a free-wheeling, playful kind of kid so it's hard to remember how to play when you didn't really get to the first time around.
    3. one of the primary purposes of children is to point out our weaknesses, they are very good at that, so we can stretch and grow.
    4. your kids don't really need you to be their buddy, though that is fun sometimes, so don't guilt-trip yourself. It is much more meaningful to them to be able to enter into your world than to have you enter theirs. Find out what you like to do for fun (baking is wonderful and easy to share but you might like other hobbies as well) and share that with them; then it won't seem so dire when they share their fun and you can't quite relate.
    5. I don't know why I started this as itemized list but since I did, I guess I'll keep going :)
    6. When my kids were toddler/preschooler, I had the house set up like a Montessori school with lots of different project areas. I showed them how to use the various games, puzzles, projects, toys, if they needed it and then bowed out. I also was going to school and they were very interested in what I did for homework so I gave them an age-appropriate version of what I did–best homeschooling we ever had! They both also learned to cook before they learned to read because I like to cook and they were always in the kitchen with me. We also took yoga classes together, visited museums (the hands-on kind mostly), and spent hours in bookstores and libraries–all stuff I adore that I made accessible for them.

    My girls are 14 and almost 13 now and we snuggle up in my bed to watch cartoons or old TV shows together at night. And I drive them to lessons, practices, meets, rehearsals.
    7. I have no earthly idea what my mother did with me. I remember her always being busy with housework (though our house was always a disaster) or working (door-to-door or party sales, church secretary, pastor's wife jobs like children's church or Sunday school or kid's choir). I remember being alone with my books or paint. By my teens I would hang out with her and talk while she did the housework (I never much helped her because she hated trying to get us to do it "right", easier to do it herself). Even as an adult, I'd talk to her on the phone daily or nearly so and imagine that she paid me her full attention but really she was typing or filing or other office work or washing dishes or folding laundry). We never "did stuff together".

  • Anonymous

    I tell my boys (5 & 6) that mom doesn't know how to play. I find what they do on their own to be incredibly cute, but it bores me to tears to try to participate. They are still creative and playful, and they hug me and tell me they love me, so I think they're going to turn out ok.
    The great thing is since I'm not a playmate, they don't look to me when they get bored. They entertain themselves and each other fantastically. Don't sweat it!
    –Elizabeth

  • Anonymous

    Once they're a little older, you can go for walks on walking trails or in the woods — there's lots of ways to play in the woods, collecting sticks, throwing rocks into the stream, etc. That helps me "play" a little more. Also when they're about 3-4, you can play simple games like Hi-Ho CherryO, etc. Having something with a format helps me, because I do also find their imaginative games make time go slooooowwly for me. :o)

    I don't know if being an introvert makes it tougher — I definitely am one. One of my friends with older kids *does* lots of sporty activities with them — she's an extrovert who gets energized by activity, but hates imaginative play too.

    I remember canning with my mom — I have lots of good memories of that. Also camping as a family. But she didn't play a lot with us. She worked part- or full-time, and I appreciated her coming to my concerts, etc., but I don't remember playing at all with her. Is this an expectation that didn't exist for moms a generation ago?
    Nancy

  • Caravelle

    Yeah, playing with kids is hard. We're just not on the same wavelength, play-wise, and often we don't enjoy the same things. It's well-known that children often find adult pastimes horribly boring but the opposite is true as well.

    I don't have any kids but I taught in a preschool for a year, for what that's worth. Generally when playing with kids I have a few options. If I'm playing their game, I'll let them lead. In fact, just imitate whatever they do. It's their game, they know how to play it, I can't improve on it, and if they think I'm boring so be it they can go play with someone else. Stressing out over it certainly wouldn't help.

    The other option is not to play their game, but to play to my strengths. One is the fact that as an adult, I'm a huge playground. Seriously, I have to go to amusement parks and pay money and wait in line to get half the thrills I can provide these kids just spinning them around.

    Of course, that's only if you've got the energy. And if they enjoy that sort of thing. And if you're not paranoid about bumps and bruises. But man does that make you popular.

    And my other strength as an adult is that I know cool stuff. I can make paper airplanes, I know games, I know songs and nursery rhymes, I know crafts, I have access to the scissors and glue and magnets… I know how to ensure the structural integrity of a lego wall (ancient knowledge passed down from mother to daughter as far as I can tell)…

    Basically, playing their games is hard, it plays to your weaknesses and it's not like they absolutely need you as a playmate. If they ask you then sure, do it, but don't put any pressure on yourself to be "fun". And follow their lead. On the other hand, entertaining them and teaching them new ways to have fun is, well, fun, it plays to your strengths and it's something only you can provide. I'm pretty sure that plays a lot more in kids' perception of an adult as "fun" than whether your giraffe was sufficiently witty.

    And it sounds like you already do a lot of that so I'd wager your kids already think you're fun.

    Besides, as they grow older you'll have more and more in common and it will become easier to have fun on the same level.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08553760391176072177 Joy

    Blocks I good with, I can make towers or whatever structure she wants ~ play dough is my downfall, never know what to do and I hate the clean up.

    Remember reading with my mom, going for nature walks.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02717668814070848449 Regina

    I've been trying to play with my 2.5 year old but am having a hard time coming up with ideas. She's a pretty independent kiddo, so she does well playing by herself, but I really feel like I need to be involved sometimes. I want to be a fun mom!

    One resource I've found extremely helpful in the past month or so is this blog: http://playathomemom3.blogspot.com/. Lots of ideas for fun play that needs some parental involvement–they have a facebook page that is a bit easier to navigate and browse if you're on facebook. The activities are generally kind of messy, but it's summertime! :)

    I've also made it my goal to do one "big" fun activity with my daughter every day–it doesn't have to really be big, but it's the main event of the afternoon. That's a pretty small goal, but I feel like it definitely makes our days go better without totally exhausting me (I'm a strong introvert, too, and 6 months pregnant).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03951937670507565105 Shelly

    I'm exactly the same way! Fake conversations and making toys talk to kids or each other is just not my specialty! I feel really guilty about it sometimes, but that's just not something I can do and I'll probably never be able to do it. I've recently resigned myself to that fact. They seem to have no problem using there imaginations at all so I just assume they get that from their father and I'm not damaging them by being bad at it myself. I agree that reading is like a happy medium. I feel comfortable doing it and they get to listen to fun, creative stories that I didn't have to come up with!

  • Anonymous

    I'm not sure your kids need you to be some kind of fun that isn't comfortable or natural to you, even though (being kids) of course they want to rope you into their games. All they're doing is telling you they love you and know you're there and they can come to you with what's on their minds, which at this stage is unicorns. And all you really have to do is be receptive — and a functional adult, which from other things you've written I gather that your mother wasn't, a lot of the time you were growing up (pregnant, post-partum, depressed, etc). All those "boring" things you do are really what keeps the world turning for your kids, so that as little children they don't have to feel that they have to turn it themselves. That in itself is a huge gift to them — that *you* are the mother, and *they* are the children, and all is right with the world.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05598890631695015818 Pippi

    You are totally overstressing. Your kids are bound to grow out of the things you can do with them, and they are at the age where they start to become more independent whether they realize it or not. Baking and reading with them is plenty; it's more than many moms do these days. They need to expand their own minds soon anyway.
    I don't really have memories of doing things with my mom. Since I'm the oldest of 10, she always had an infant and a couple toddlers, and she stressed constantly about keeping a neat house. When she wasn't doing housework or homeschooling, she was printing or writing music or typesetting or copying, getting the materials she has since published together. Teaching us, including cooking and cleaning and sewing and music, was pretty much the extent of our interaction. And that didn't really leave time for anything else.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08135229596877003069 Michelle

    The preschool age is the hardest for me, too. When they are just a tad bit older (1st/2nd grade) we can start reading better books and having better discussions.

    But as for what I DO: We do lots of silly tackle games. The kids will stack on top of me and stuff like that. I typically keep the pretend-type games kind of short…to about 20 minutes or so. And I think I built up to that. I would do say, 5 minutes and then we'd have to change, but I gradually made myself do it a little bit longer. Arts and Crafts are my old standby…kids love that stuff. Also, my strength is building things with wood blocks so we do pyramids, buildings, etc.

    I say, give yourself a break! you are ONLY 6 weeks post-partum…that's really not all that long (and probably need a few more weeks recovery before you run around doing soccer and/or tag, too). Try to play to your strengths (it sounds like you do…with the baking).

    When you do something new, and find yourself looking at the clock too quickly, really focus on your children and find out what they are trying to get you to do (most likely they are trying to get you to do something really silly) and then do it, if you're able!

    Personally, I bet you're a heckuva lot better at it than you think you are.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05659143242634568450 Me

    I've felt the same way at times. It is too easy to allow them to entertain themselves, and me to go and have my own quiet time. Mine are a little older (7 & 10), so that makes it especially easy. I don't have very many good memories of my parents doing fun things with me as a child, either. I learned how to cook, clean, and buy groceries. Thank you for the reminder. I think we will find something fun to do tomorrow. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05117120475033380036 Emily G.

    I could have written most of this post, Young Mom. You're not alone.

    When I was growing up, I was the oldest of 7. Mom allowed us many, many hours of leisure every day, especially in summertime. And I led all the games. I made up families, names and personalities for elaborate role-playing 'house'-type games that lasted weeks. I made crafts with my siblings. I made up cops-and-robbers styled games with complicated sets of rules. I didn't do any of that because I had to. I did it because I loved it, and I loved how my siblings and I had fun together doing the games and activities I thought up.

    Now I'm a mama in my early 20's and my oldest is 2.5. And believe it or not, my husband who had a pretty terrible childhood and does not know a thing about little kids is better with our little girl than I am. He reads, he talks, he listens, he plays with her. Me, I just feel lost and incompetant. I read to her. I use a lot of expression and we have fun doing that together. We colour together. We build Duplos…if we can without her little crawling brother ruining our creations. We sing a lot, I take her for wagon rides or walks every day and let her 'help' me garden. But I still feel like I am lacking. I feel like she thinks I'm no fun. I always wanted to be the fun mom. I'm so young. I have energy my mom didn't have; she had me at 30. I feel like a total failure some days. I am afraid all my daughter is going to remember is me yelling at her to get out of the fridge AGAIN because I just gave her a snack and why can't she just eat what she's given. I am hoping as she gets a little older and is more capable things might change. Maybe I'm fooling myself. I don't know.

    A friend just lent me the book "How to Really Love Your Child" by Ross Campbell. Have you ever read it? It's been a little hard for me to read because it is showing me that the areas I need to improve in are definitely going to cause problems if I don't improve. I do recommend it though.

    God bless you. You are trying really hard and you are not going to become your ideal mom overnight.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16232186225573312896 Incongruous Circumspection

    Silly. Don't you know that unicorns only talk about peanut butter on eggs? Sheesh! And I thought only I was losing it!

  • Edita

    I don't think you need to feel bad about it, kids need to LEARN how to play, obviously you didn't really learn what you could do with your free time, so don't make yourself miserable.

    Fake conversations hehe, I'm not fond of them either. The unicorn could ask the kid what it would like to play. Or ask the kid about it's favourite food… just things you'd like to know about your kid really. I always feel that works well as a conversation starter (unicorn-wise).

    Some things that work really well with the kids in my family… MAKE stuff. With their hands. It's messy, yes, but it's introvert work and still fun for kids. Take some old jars from peanut butter or whatnot, get some half way see through paper and some wall glue and make windlights with motives on them. Put candles in and light them when you read their good night stories.

    As for playing outside… What you can do where you won't need to run a lot is a treasure hunt where you hide little riddles appropriate for your kids age and lead them through the house and back out to some cookies. You could tell a freaky story about how you see the stuffed unicorn hide something.

    Really just some small ideas. I'm sure there's pages and blogs on the internet and I know there's many books about it. I have several, they usually have names like "100 games for kids" or something.
    No worries, I think you're a great mom and you don't have to be the walking entertainment master every day. One day a week where you plan a bigger game is more than most kids get.

  • http://nowealthbutlife.com Rae

    What do you do for fun for yourself? Okay, it doesn't have to be *fun* but what do you do for regular self-care beyond the absolute basics?

    My mom was what you describe until she was finally done breastfeeding her youngest, and I realize now that the biggest reason that she was not able to connect with her kids in a fun way was that she was not able to care for herself beyond the most basics needed to keep her running as a mother. She would eat healthy food and take walks to keep fit during pregnancy, but she did not take long baths or go hiking or meet with friends for a book club or anything like that.

    Can you make a list of what you do for yourself, by yourself for self-care? I am not being condescending, but if you are like me then you may think you are doing more than you are until you try to write it down. It would be quite typical if at this point you are not entirely sure of what you like, let alone have forced the time to make it happen!

    This probably seems completely off-topic, and maybe it is. But in my limited experience I didn't need my mom to try to be something she was not. I just needed her to take care of herself and be happy for herself so that her happiness could rub off on the rest of us and create a fun environment. Unless you're abusive or something else is seriously wrong, your kids are naturally going to constantly come back to you and include you in their fun if they see you as happy and fun in yourself.


    None of that is what I thought I would comment at first when reading this post. What I was going to say was that I so identify with you, even though I am not actually a mother. I know how to do the work of managing a home. I know how to care for babies. I am even fairly confident with toddlers and crazy imaginative games. But, dear God (and I do mean that as a prayer as much as an exclamation), I do not know how to relate to school-aged kids in a good mothering way. And I can't imagine being able to do a good job parenting teens.

    It is amazing that you are able to both recognize all of this and care about it, even while you are in the midst of it. I hope that you find whatever it is that *you* need to make it all work for you and your children. They are blessed to have you as their mother.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03902269757236342287 Jessica

    Ack! This is me!

    My husband is sooo good about playing with the kids. Me? Not so much.

  • Alice

    I think you're being a bit hard on yourself. I realized I was being way too hard on myself when at about 3 months postpartum a professor reminded me that I had just given birth and needed to cut myself a bit of slack.

    My mother was THE best preschool Mom on the planet because she knew when to let the kids take over. For instance Mom showed us that a row of chairs could be a school bus or a train, but five minutes later, she'd be off doing her work again and we'd continue by ourselves unless we started knocking the chairs over or fighting. She listened when we talked about what we had played, but often admitted that it was too weird for her to follow. She also read us lots of books, which fueled our imaginations.

    Now that I'm a mom my self, I try to teach my son to play with his toys and then let him play by himself or with his same age cousin. They come up with the craziest things. One of their favorite games is riding their tricycles across the patio and pretending that they bought fries at Pizza Hut. Another is carrying Duplos in baskets and calling them candy. I'm happy to "eat" or "drink" what they bring me, but my mind just doesn't work the way theirs do. And that's OK.

    One of the best fathers I know said the best piece of parenting advice he ever got was "Let your kids be bored" because it fuels their imaginations. While he was talking specifically about overscheduling, I think the same thing can happen when Mom or Dad tries to impose their ideas on play time. Sometimes you just have to let go.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06374573594800663980 Kacie

    Oh boy. This was one of my biggest worries – I'm not a funny person, I'm an introvert, and in all my years of babysitting I just hate the age that constantly wants to play. I just… don't like to play and have no imagination. How will I parent well through that age?

    I'm still worried about that, but let me also tell you about my mother. Mother of six. Introvert. Can't tell a joke to save her life. And yet, she was a GREAT mother through that age. She was much better at organizing activities for us to go out and have fun in rather than imagining things with us. You may be better at that same thing – create a framework for play and then send your kids out to have fun themselves. Like – have art time, get out all the art stuff, and let them go to town while you supervise. Read with them. Make homemade playdough. Have them help you with your cooking.

    Besides – you're the mother. You don't have to be the "fun" mom to be a great mom. You can just be yourself and love your kids, and maybe sometimes they'll want you to play and you won't want to, but really – they'll learn to play themselves. That's okay. Have them join you in things you enjoy.

    I'm loving the baby stage, and I just KNOW I'm going to be the boring mom and my husband will be the fun dad. But really – whatever. I can still raise them well even if I'm not an imaginative and playful person.

  • http://foreverinhell.com Personal Failure

    Normally, I wouldn't recommend watching kids' tv, because it's just mind melting, but it might help you to do so. Turn on Nick Jr. for a few hours and watch it. That's what kids like: bright colors, bright voices, big facial expressions and nonsense.

    When a kid asks you to make a unicorn talk, you can have it talk about the stock market in China as long as you use your big, bright "we're having fun!" voice. Kids that age don't understand most of what adults say anyway, so anything that goes over their heads won't bother them. They just want you to engage with them.

    Also, ask questions. My 2.5 year old niece has the same hilarious, bizarre, borderline insane opinions and ideas all children that age do. Just ask "what are you doing?" or "what do you think of that?" and allow the hilarity to fall from their lips. Not too many people actually want to listen to a young child, so that alone makes me very popular with the toddler set.

    I can understand feeling physically behind. I physically cannot keep up with a toddler for long, but they're okay with it if you say, "Oh, Auntie PF is tired, let's sit down." It helps to build empathy, too.

    I do second the notion that you are probably suffering from PPD and that's colouring your view of how your children feel about interacting with you. You say that you feel stupid trying to make up conversation for a stuffed unicorn. That's the depression talking. Trust me, a small child is excited that you tried, not judging your vocal performance. They just want a little of your time. The fact that try is, to them, is a big deal.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05248476836969662392 hekates

    My kids are 14 and 9. I wasn't much for playing games with them – I enjoyed building brio train tracks and reading with them, but other stuff? not so much. Myu boys aren't interested in baking with me too much either,unfortunately, but they like to garden.
    Your kids are the perfect age to go on nature walks. They are so slow that they will see everything.

    And re:the Ross Campbell book – I just read the blurb and a couple of reviews. My boys are the most self confident, interdependent with their parents in a healthy way, and have a great honest sense of themselves – i.e. they feel unconditionally loved. What did we do? Fed on demand, coslept, got down on their level when they were speaking. TUrned off the radio or tv when they spoke with us (or we wanted to speak to them.) Came when they cried. Let them work out the problems that they could work out. And…didn't EVER spank them. People ask me why my boys come when I ask them to, immediately. Because I demonstrated that to them.I went to them when they needed me. The golden rule, not the OT should be your guide when raising your children.

  • Anonymous

    I can so relate. My three are all grown now, but I still remember trying so hard to enjoy board games with them. Sorry, but I hate Candyland. Anyway, I finally decided to that it was better to do things I enjoyed too like flying kites, drawing, having inside picnics, and playing in the rain. I think you sound like a wonderful mama. Keep on hugging and kissing and loving and they will be just fine.

  • Anonymous

    I hear what everyone is saying about not necessarily needing to be your kids' super fun playmate all the time, but I also think you are feeling a need to connect with your kids in their play and that need is worth honoring. One technique that works really well and doesn't require a lot of creativity: narrating play. This is where you narrate their play like a sportscaster, just saying out loud everything they are doing. E.g. "You're putting the red block on the blue block", "you're climbing all the way to the top of the slide, you made it to the top!! You worked really hard!" It helps me to imagine there is a blind person who needs to know everything my children are doing and I need to describe it for them. I know it sounds a little bit silly but pre-schoolers LOVE it. I learned it in graduate school (part of a therapy called Parent Child Interaction Therapy if you're interested) but first tried it when I took my three year old to the park but couldn't run around and play with him because I was holding the baby–I pretended to be a sportscaster and talked about what he was doing. The next time we went to the park he said "do that thing again where you say everything I do!" Like everyone has said, your kids don't need you to be their exciting playmate who always comes up with new ideas for them–in fact, it is much better to let them lead the play and make up the game–your attention and approval is enough. When you imitate and describe their play out loud it is like you are saying to them "I see you and I like you and I like what you're doing", which is a powerful and wonderful message to any child. Best of all, you can do it while sitting and letting your body heal from giving birth :). You sound like an amazing mother–I hope this helps you feel even more confident about connecting with your kids.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06253375702367863424 Natalie

    Hi, this is my first posting on your blog, which I found by visiting other blogs.

    First off, I have to agree with the other posters that you are being too hard on yourself. 4 children 4 and under is a lot to deal with! I am sure your older children love you very, very much and simply want to bond with you (not insinuating that you are not bonding with them) and that is why they ask you to play.

    I do not have children, but I remember that my Mom used to make the stuffed animals talk and make up stories about how my toys came to life when I was asleep. We would color together with those large coloring books on the floor. Like you my Mom is not a block builder, so she would sit on the floor and praise whatever creation I came up with. Given that my parents were older (almost 40 when I was born), they did not run around with me too much but I have very happy memories of my preschool years.

    You sound like a great Mom and I am sure your children have fun playing with you, because they love you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00251303621825787312 debka_notion

    The first thing I remembered, in thinking about how my Mom played with my sister and me was coloring books. She'd color well, and we'd color like kids, and everyone would have fun. The make-believe games she mostly left to the two of us to play together (we're quite close in age), or occasionally to let Dad or a grandparent into. And she was a great mom (and still is).

  • Rebecca in CA

    I am in the same boat, young mom…I don't know what it is; maybe just all the time I spent in school, I'm just not great at playing. I love the comments posted so far. I have found, as has been said by a few here, that sometimes all it takes is just a few minutes of my introducing a simple idea, then the kids take off with it. And I have found that just a little bit of concentrated time, even if I'm just drawing next to them while they draw, and commenting/listening to comments, makes a big connection which really satisfies them. They don't really need me to be super creative or "fun". However I am trying to increase my fun factor gradually, in ways that aren't stressful, and looking at books about games (little kids love games which involve their whole body) is helpful, also websites like http://www.magicalchildhood.com; her ideas are simple and doable and not too "crafty".

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13059918466503894975 Leigh Ann

    Oh, man. This is so me. It is so hard to play with the kids. My mom didn't when I was a kid. I was by myself so much with my books and imagination. I live so much in my head that there is a running commentary about all that I am doing wrong. I am looking forward to reading through all the comments.

  • http://grace-filled.net jen

    this is so me as well.

  • http://amandajane5.livejournal.com/ amandajane5

    I've also found with my 4-year old nephew, and my cousin's 3&4 year old kids that they like a challenge. My nephew wants to run around? I offer to time him on a run and count out loud (I usually start *very* slow) and then tell him he can do it faster, and magically he can! This can be repeated for quite awhile. At the park, I'll challenge him to go down all of the slides twice. My cousin's kids invented a game where they see how many blocks or legos they can pile on my head before they fall down, which is apparently hilarious. And none of these things involve getting up! (I've been sick, not pregnant, but definitely lacking in mobility.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12557248434888642114 Melanie B

    My kids play very creatively; but I don't think I've ever don't a voice for one of their toys. I have stacked blocks with them and painted with them and done clay and dough with them. I go outside and sometimes kick a ball or run around but I'm more likely to just go for a walk or look at leaves and flowers and bugs with them.

    I don't really play with them because I don't think they need me to do that. I'm their mom not their playmate. I love to watch them play and think it's important to give them plenty of unstructured time so they can play; but I really don't feel a need to play _with_ them. Mind you, it's not that I think it's wrong or bad when parents play with their kids. Just that I don't think it's _necessary_ for kids to have a fun mom. (Except maybe for only children who don't have many opportunities for playing with other children. Even then, though, I think we often don't give children enough credit for being able to amuse themselves.)

    I remember when my oldest was almost two and I was pregnant with our second child and I'd watch her playing by herself and think: Wow she needs a sibling because she just seems so lonely playing by herself! I'd try to do things with her but even then it was mostly reading books and taking walks and pushing her in the swings at the playground and trying to include her as I did my housework. But now that she's got a sister and brother to play with, she doesn't need me to be a playmate. Isn't that the beauty of siblings?

    Like I said, I've never done a voice for one of their toys. I've never been asked to. As far as I know no one has ever shown them how to do that. But I've listened to hours of them doing voices for various animals and figures. Jesus and the apostles and the donkey and other Noah's ark animals and the purple-haired fairy doing all sorts of things together: going to the store, using the bathroom, riding on the train, the plane.

    I don't think kids need to be taught how to play. I think play is what kids do naturally. It's how they relate with the world, how they absorb new information. It's what they do when they aren't used to watching tv and playing on computers and being entertained as passive consumers of media. My response is if your kids are having problems being bored, they are probably getting too much screen time. Turn off the screens and send them outside.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12557248434888642114 Melanie B

    And yes, the postpartum period is most challenging for me (except perhaps the first trimester when I'm exhausted) because I feel like I'm stuck in a chair nursing all day and when I'm not I'm trying to do a million other things to keep the house running. I don't feel like I've got enough fun time for me much less time to do things with the big kids. All too often the most fun thing I do is just set up the paints and then sit down to nurse the baby or go cook or do laundry or whatever needs to be done.

  • http://brittanyannwick.wordpress.com/ brittanyannwick

    My nephew is three, and one of my favorite things to do with him is "wrestle." Really, I just get down on the floor, tickle him, roll around, hold him up in the air. His favorite are horsey rides and pick-a-back, though. (Can anyone say no when a sweet chubby face topped with curls looks up and says "hold me!"? Yeah. I can't.)

    I love to teach him things. He has a toy space shuttle, and I explained how it flew and how it went into space as I "flew" it around and made whooshing noises. He loved it. If I can teach him something while I play with him then I'm successful. If I get a giggle out of him, so much the better!

    Really, kids that age are just excited to spend time with you. You're giving them that.

  • http://thechurchfanatic.blogspot.com LLMom

    Check this out, Loving the Mothers we are:
    http://www.upsaid.com/teachermom/index.php?action=viewcom&id;=89 It was very insightful to me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10902541075652052825 Aunt Vik

    I had kids who were stairsteps. I wasn't even supposed to be able to have kids, then after some years I had one in 1997, then 1998, then 1999. They always played well alone as well as with each other and were perfectly content either way. Maybe having them close together was the key? I never felt the need to be "fun". I felt the need to be "there", though. They would play away while I either sat on the floor or the couch, then look up and smile at me with huge grins every once in awhile, and then go back to doing their "thing".

    I'd take the to the park sometimes, or watch the trains go by, or pick dandylions, or let them watch me do something (they were fascinated with whatever I did–I mean they really thought I was something!). Sometimes I let them "help" me. Sometimes I'd be paying bills at the table, and let them "pay bills" with paper and crayons at the table. Nothing strenuous!

    Nah. Don't worry too much. Be glad that YOU are raising them and changing their [mean] diapers and not someone else. It doesn't matter much what you do. It's your attitude and "vibe" that really matters to them. And the fact that you are there!


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