At the risk of ending up on a "Top 10 worst mothers" list, here is my confession.
I fairly recoil when a child skips up to me with a plastic toy in their hand and an opening line on their lips. "Yes, and..." I reluctantly answer, sounding like a trained improv student at gunpoint. Why do I squirm so much at this invitation to play? Is there something wrong with me? What kind of mother doesn't like to play?
I enjoy outings with my kids. I love chatting with them about their observations at the zoo, or at the beach. I like doing an activity with them, even if it's laundry, but especially if it's something like paddle boarding or judo. I love reading to my kids, and I even "do the voices". I like singing with my kids too, playing board games, and running around at the park.
It isn't the child. I love children. I especially love my children.
Am I missing the necessary creativity to just play? Is it toys that I hate?
When it comes to play, that traditional, play room, on-the-floor-in-a-sea-of-trinkets-play, I just can't do it. I can make myself play for a few minutes, yes, but every ounce of me would rather do just about anything else. Consequently, the play doesn't last long. I leap up to rescue dinner, or find some other weak excuse to quit the game. It's obvious that I don't want to be there.
The children, too, can see that I'm a fraud when I try to pretend that I'm playing. More than once I've seen that look of utter disappointment on the face of a child, similar to the look they get when they realize that the child in the mirror is not in fact another child, but just a lifeless reflection.
Did I play as a child? Yes. My sisters and I played tag, hide and seek, board games, and generally just ran wild in our neighbourhood through the carefree 80s. We had a stash of our mother's discarded dresses and gauzy 1970s negligees (our princess dresses) that were the inspiration for our ongoing Cinderella game. (I was always one of the wicked stepsisters, because my younger sister Anna was always Cinderella. We didn't mind too much.)
We played with toys, though, too. My brother's cars had dramas and loves, babies and homes in our hands. The little plastic animals weathered food shortages and reenacted the Great Flood, trustingly boarding Noah's ark two-by-two when we played with them. Where is that part of me now?
Maybe I've picked up after one too many playroom sessions to like playing with toys anymore. Maybe I've lost something precious from childhood. (Hopefully I'm not a monster.)
I try to make up for my deficiency. One day a week we go on outings as a family, and play games in the evening. We leave our phones off, and we don't work (barring anyone calling in sick). I'll work on a project with them, show them how to do something, or listen to them read or play an instrument. I don't know if it's all enough, but it's all I've got.
I am the no-play mom.
If you're anything like me (what is wrong with us, anyway?) maybe you would enjoy family yoga, at 9am on Sunday mornings, or Tots yoga, starting Saturday, October 13th. You can hide your dislike of role-playing dinosaurs and dollies for another day. No one will know the truth!