My kids are such a joy to me and I love being with them, but I have such a hard time playing with them and so little patience. My to-do list seems to be a mile long, so it’s tough to set aside time for play and silliness. And when I do, I get quickly frustrated with the bickering or whining or mess making. It never seems to be the Mary Poppins moment I was hoping for. The Bible talks about teaching and training your children, but what about playing with them?
If I had a happy thought for every time I heard a mama voicing her inadequacy, I could surely fly.
Are your children fed? Clothed? Supervised? Safe? Where they need to be when they need to be there? Happy? Happy to play on their own? Bless you, Mama, but sometimes our own self-expectations are either unrealistic or unnecessary.
There is nothing in the Bible about playing with your children, at least nothing direct. You’re right – teaching and training get the real attention in Scripture, but playing? Not so much. Certainly real life lessons can be learned through play alongside a parent, but trying to turn every moment into a “lesson” can stifle fun in a hurry. If playing is not your thing, don’t sweat it. If it’s memory making you’re looking for, plan a monthly activity – a game, a craft, baking cupcakes, doing silhouette drawings, or whatever you enjoy. Plan it when your kids are at their best – fed and rested. Be prepared for a mess, armed with step by step plans and supplies and a fresh pot of coffee.
You don’t have to be on the floor with your children to encourage their creativity. Just be sure to applaud their creations, whether artistic or musical, theatrical or imaginative. My 7-year-old grandson has a vivid imagination, going in and out of character several times a day. He’ll walk into the kitchen with a clipboard and say, “I’m doing market research,“ and my daughter will pause from her task to answer his questions. Or he’ll charge in to report a detailed account of pirate adventures and gold doubloons. His mama will give her total attention, ask questions and praise his ingenuity in finding the booty. She is not actually playing with him, but she enters into his imaginary world nearly every day.
My 2 ½ year old granddaughter recently took a diaper box and stuck it on her head, peeking through a slot in the side. “I’m a robot,” she announced. My daughter-in-law got it on video, complete with an interview. She didn’t have to be playing with her daughter to make her feel loved and special.
And that, Mama, is what it’s all about.
Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you
the fear of the Lord. — Psalm 34:11 (NIV)