By TMoM Team Member Ellen Bryant Lloyd
An older friend once shared some advice that significantly impacted me as a parent: go ahead and play that game. She was essentially telling me to never pass up an opportunity to play with my children. She went on to say that the phrase, the days are long, but the years are short, really is true. Then, she encouraged me to not waste a moment.
My friend said as she looked back on her early parenting years, she realized that most of her favorite memories and bonding moments with her children happened while she played with them. My children were young at the time and I truly thought we shared a lot of playtime together. However, when she challenged me, I thought more about it and discovered I was, in fact, missing windows of opportunity to engage in play.
I started being more aware of invitations from my children to play. Sometimes they asked me directly, but sometimes they dropped hints about wanting to play. Or, sometimes they asked just once and other times they made grand gestures by setting up a game, a stack of books, paint or craft supplies. I became more intentional about embracing these opportunities and creating new opportunities to play. Additionally, I made a point to be truly present while engaging with them. Plus, I always waited for them to let me know when they felt playtime was over. Without a doubt, this new awareness helped me embrace parenthood on deeper and richer levels.
Moms know that as children grow up, their activities and interests shift. Because of this, the way play looks changes as children get older. It was important for me to know that days of playing “house,” blocks, and Candyland would shift into afternoons of playing Monopoly, charades, and building forts. In time, playtime changed to competitive hands of Spades, games of backgammon, and Scrabble matches. The point is, you will need to shift the way play looks as time goes on, but never stop playing.
In addition to creating special memories and bonding moments, playing with my children opened the window for meaningful conversation. This helped secure a bond between us they will hopefully carry for life. For me, this time became a valuable piece of the parenting puzzle.
Recognizing and fully embracing playtime with my children was an eye-opening experience that greatly enhanced our relationship and added many special memories to my life, and hopefully theirs. As my friend encouraged me, I encourage you as well — go ahead and play that game.
Ellen Bryant Lloyd is a writer and mom of two children, one who has flown from the nest and the other is not far from it. She blogs about perspectives on life and parenting at mindfulmom.wordpress.com and tweets at @EllenBLloyd. She is the author of FRECKLES and FRECKLES and The Great Beach Rescue, a freelance writer and memoir ghostwriter. Ellen lives in Greensboro with her husband, her daughter, when she is home from college, and the sweetest dog ever. She looks forward to seeing her son, who is now living and working in a nearby metropolitan city, as often as possible.