Yesterday, I mentioned that I have been reading a great parenting book. “Playful Parenting” by Lawrence J. Cohen has reminded me of how much my boys need me to play with them. They need me to play with them much more often than I have been playing with them. They need me to be involved directly with them much more than they need me to be spending a great deal of time concerning myself with household tasks like dishes, laundry, cooking and cleaning.
Of course, the fact that my sons need me to play with them and focus exclusively on them at multiple times throughout each day does not excuse me from my domestic duties or my work. That said, I can see how focusing more on parenting playfully and immersing myself fully in play time with the boys could lead to a situation where I feel like I have more time to devote to my adult responsibilities instead of less.
You see, over the past couple of days I have noticed that when I stop everything and just play for a while, my sons (the three and a half year old especially) are sometimes content to play on their own for a little bit afterwards. While they are playing independently, I can whip up a simple meal in the kitchen or wash some of the dishes much more easily than I usually can because usually they are both right at my feet trying their best to distract me from the task at hand. I witnessed this phenomenon very clearly a couple of nights ago. Dylan wanted me to play a chase game with him, which I did very enthusiastically for about fifteen or twenty minutes. When I was done playing, I mentioned to him that I needed to go inside for a minute and I would be right back. I went in to the kitchen and left the door open so that I could see the boys as they played in the sandbox, and I put chicken in the oven and sweet potatoes into the microwave for dinner. Nothing special or complicated, but with timers set for the food, I went back outside and sat by the sandbox. I talked with the boys about what they were doing in the sandbox, really noticing their handiwork instead of throwing out a passing “that’s great” as I walked by. Eventually the timers went off and I excused myself to the kitchen again. There was no complaint, and after dinner was on the table I went outside and helped the boys to wrap up their play so that we could have dinner.
As I was putting the boys to bed that night, Dylan mentioned that he had really enjoyed his day because I had, as he put it “played with him all day long”. He then turned to me with a puzzled expression on his face and said “You were playing with us so much, how did dinner get cooked?” That, to me, was a clear indicator that I am on the right track with Playful Parenting. Dylan was so fulfilled by our play time that he enjoyed playing on his own without following me into the kitchen. He enjoyed playing with his brother and did not really acknowledge my absence from the scene. I encourage you to read “Playful Parenting”, especially if you have a naggings sense that “something is missing” in your relationship with your children.