I don’t usually get a lot of time during the day to just sit and play with the kids. There’s always work to be done around the house — make the lunch, empty the dishwasher, get a load of laundry in, feed the baby, change a diaper.
I know this makes them sad. In particular, Gal Smiley is always asking me to play a game with her or make the voice for her baby doll. I try to hang out with them when I can, but there always seems to be something else to do. I almost feel like my role is more to facilitate the fun, than to take part in it. It’s my job to put out the paints and clean up afterwards. It’s my job to take them to the park or the museum. It’s my job to work the TV remote.
Stuff like wrestling on the floor or pretending to be dogs or having a water gun fight…that’s more Sir Monkeypants’ kind of thing. He’s the fun one.
This morning I was taking a very rare moment to play Stacking Cups with Little Miss Sunshine on the floor after breakfast. Lately I’ve been trying to give her a lot of personal attention because she’s on the cusp of learning to walk and talk, so she needs me to walk with her and talk with her and help her development. Gal Smiley was pretty upset, though, that I was playing with the Little Miss. Gal Smiley was NOT INTERESTED in playing cups with us. She wanted me to come and play Blue’s Clues game with her, and leave Little Miss Sunshine in a closet somewhere.
Then Captain Jelly Belly came over and told Gal Smiley, “Mommy doesn’t play with us anymore. She only plays with Little Miss Sunshine.”
Oh man, that was a hard one. I almost cried.
There’s no question that it is very hard to find a way to spread my limited playtime evenly between the three kids. Gal Smiley and Captain Jelly Belly play very well together, and adding me into the mix is actually a problem — they go from playing nicely together to vying for my attention, and suddenly it’s Sibling Rivalry 101. The kids get fussy, I get frustrated, and then we all stomp off in a huff. So in general the house just runs better when I leave the older two to do their thing, if they are in a happy play place, and just spend my free time working with the Little Miss.
But now I’m all sad and afraid that I am breaking my older two kids’ hearts.
In just a few short years, they’ll prefer to play with their friends. They’ll be upstairs playing Nintendo or over at a friend’s house playing hide-and-seek. They’ll drop in for meals and to ask for a ride to the mall. They won’t remember the days I did or didn’t play restaurant or car races with them. They won’t remember all the hours I pushed them on the swings or the times I helped them make sand castles at the park. So maybe it all doesn’t matter, anyway.
But I don’t really believe that.
At the very least I think these early years give me a chance to create a general impression, a general memory, of who their mom is and what their home is like. It’s a chance for me to make them feel happy and warm and bonded. And also to think that their mom is pretty cool. Almost as cool as their dad.
It’s a hard one, that’s for sure. There’s already a lot of pressure to do everything, to be everything, to be perfect. But clearly I need to try just a little bit harder.