My kids occasionally say to me, "Mama, will you play with us? You never, ever play with us." My typical response is, "Sure, just as soon as I'm done with this insert-chore-here."
The thing is, I don't really like playing. I'm totally into being around my kids - I truly find them to be among the most delightful creatures on the planet. We go for tons of walks, they hang out while I cook, and we're in each other's peripheral vision more often than not.
But playing? I find it rather arduous. I eat their pretend soup and drink their pretend tea, yes, but I'm not the mother who can sanely sit on the playroom for an hour making believe.
And I think that's okay. I mean, I don't remember any of our moms playing with us - it was up to us to find our fun, and I don't think I'm any less of a person because of it. In fact, I'm sure it's the opposite. I don't want to be at the helm of their games, both because I find it tedious and because I don't think it's good for their sense of self or feelings of independence.
I do admit though to a lingering shadow of guilt about my reluctance to drop everything and join their fun. Which is curious, since it's so clear how much more fun they have without me. The Mama Dynamic involves them fighting over me, getting possessive about toys, and demanding that one sit on my lap for the same number of seconds as the other. When I stay out of the picture, it's all cooperation, exploration, and the occasional shouting match that ends when they figure it out.
I'm starting to realize that doing a thing I don't want to do simply because it's my children who are asking me to do it is the very opposite of what I'm trying to instill in them. I want them to be kind, yes, of course - I certainly don't turn their offers to play down every time. But I don't want them to agree to things in their lives simply out of obligation. Rather, I'd prefer to teach them that we're all independent creatures, and that we don't all want to do the same things at the same time. Too, that when I do say yes to building a stellar Lego creation it's because I'm all in and am ready to excitedly participate. Guilt-driven yeses are not the yeses about which I want them to learn.
I'm well-versed in the language of Giving when it comes to my kids. We read stories constantly, their art papers my walls, and their feelings of joy and hurt and anger and sadness are all acknowledged in real and important ways. I am mostly patient and I am certainly loving.
And yet still, I'm thinking that maybe it's okay for us to revert back to how our mamas did it on this one.
Because my kids might not realize it yet, but I think that sometimes, they're better off without me.