Do you play with your kids?

Sir Monkeypants likes to play with them. He likes chase games, running games, throwing-things-at-each-other games. He likes to dangle the kids upside down and to pretend he’s a shark stalking them in the water and to hunt them with squirt guns.

I find I don’t have the energy for that kind of stuff very often. So much of my everyday work is physical — schlep the laundry, haul the groceries, pick up this kid, stir that pot, give a bath, break up a fight, change a diaper. When I have playtime with the kids, I prefer board games, reading books snuggled under a blanket, colouring pictures, painting.

So between the two of us, I’d say our kids get a good balance of action.


Neither Sir Monkeypants nor I can play pretend games for any length of time at all. Games like this: “You be this doggie and I will be this bear. My bear says hello to your doggie. Now, what should they do?”


We got away without playing much of this kind of thing with the Captain. He’s very good at engrossing himself in his own little world. He can get out his Star Wars figures, and an hour later you’ll wander by and hear him muttering on the floor about “Now entering the death star” and “Roger roger” and “Ready for take off” and all is well.

But Gal Smiley likes to have a friend along for the ride. A playmate. And worse, what she really wants is someone to guide the action. Someone to provide all the imagination, someone to direct the story.

I don’t know why, exactly, but I find this kind of constant creativity to be extremely taxing. I just can’t muster up the enthusiasm to decide whether Barbie should go to a party or to the mall, to invent the rules of a new form of soccer game for Doggie and Bear, to dream up a lesson plan for the Polly Pockets as they attend art school. It hurts my brain, and I find myself looking for an excuse to get out almost as soon as we’ve begun.

Maybe it’s that I’m not a very creative person, or maybe I’m just not that interested in telling tales. Maybe I got my fill of this kind of thing as a kid (Lord knows, I played Barbies with FameThrowa for enough hours to qualify for a Ph.D.). All I know now is, when Gal Smiley approaches with a couple of stuffed animals in hand and looks at me with those giant brown eyes, asking me shyly to “Please play with me,” then I groan inside a little bit.

Want to do a puzzle instead? Maybe get out the PlayDoh? Make a bracelet from beads?


Okay. Five minutes of Doggie and Bear, and then I HAVE to…go.

12 thoughts on “Playtime

  1. we seem to have the same dynamic in our house. and i totally get you on the pretend thing. it’s not something that i totally love to do either. for the jellybean it’s two little action figures he has called blue boy and red boy. he comes up to you, gives you one, and then says “hi blue boy.” and then expects you to take over. ugh

  2. It’s hard to be creative about play when you’re tired or distracted with other stuff you need to do, too. Hana went through a phase where she wanted me to make up a story for her before bed. Most days I couldn’t come up with anything on the fly, so I’d do a minor variation of an existing story.

    Even so, some nights I’d start to nod off half-way through a sentence and I’d hear, “Mom! Mom! What happens next, Mom?”

    “Uhhh…oh yeah…story…um, and they all lived happily ever after. THE END.”

  3. I am the same way. My husband is happy to pretend all day long. Me it makes my skin crawl. I would much rather play hockey or well, do anything else actually, oh the toilet needs to be cleaned!! At least now I know I am not alone. I thought maybe I wasn’t the best mommy material for not wanting to do these activities. Although over the years M has learned to play pretend on his own. Sad but true 😦

  4. meg

    I thought that by having more than one kid parents become automatically freed from having to play pretend. That’s what siblings are for!

  5. I was that kind of kid…except that when I asked for direction, it was just to point out how wrong you were, and that THIS is what happens next, duh. I’m sure my parents had more than their own share of inward groaning time. I’m glad you write about this, though, because (even though I am nowhere close to even thinking about having kids), sometimes I do wonder that IF I do have kids, will this sort of thing be a problem? Will it make me a “bad mother”? I just feel like I can’t relate to that state of mind anymore. The real stuff is so much more interesting to me. But, from reading the rest of your blog, I can see that I shouldn’t be worried at all about my hypothetical parenting skillz. You obviously have a good relationship with your kids, despite the brain pain that comes with pretending.

  6. Good grief, people! There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to play make believe with your kids. Heck, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with not wanting to play with your kids period.

    I don’t mean ignore the beings, but I think there are activities that are good for the family (or 1 adult + 1 kid) and some activities that are for kids.

    Ya, I don’t have kids, but if I did, I don’t see me treating them any different than I treat my current nearest-and-dearests. That is, if I want to do something or at least don’t mind doing something for the happiness of someone else, I’ll do it. Otherwise, I won’t. Not because I don’t care about the other person, but because if I do something I really don’t like, it’ll drain me, and I won’t be much fun.

    Worse, with kids, if I do it once, they’ll want me to do it all the time.

    My mother never played anything with me. Ever. Not even a game of cards. Okay sure she was generally not a good mother, but I don’t think this was one of the contributing reasons.

    If my kids want someone to play with, I guess I’d try to arrange more play dates. I suppose that’s a tough thing to do though, so I’m if that’s unsuccessful I’ll just have to listen to my kid complain that they’re bored. Not *that’s* something my mother did.

  7. I can play pretend for awhile, but the girl doesn’t ask for it much. What I can’t do for a long time is tell stories. Luckily the husband and she can tell these half hour stories about nothing. She loves it. I tire of it. I always end all the stories with someone going to bed and then quickly say “the end”.

  8. My niece used to love playing imagination games like that. One time, she was the mommy and I was the baby. I got bored and tried to say “Let’s play something else”, and she said very indignantly “Babies can’t talk.”

  9. I have some guilt around this issue, so I’m glad that others find themselves in the same boat (i.e. the non-pretend boat). Sometimes I wonder why I even had children because I really like to do adult things. I don’t like rolling around on the carpet wrestling, or playing imagination games with little plastic figurines, not even video games. Lately I’ve taken to reminding my daughter, “remember, mommy doesn’t like fun!”

  10. The Boy is very much the play by himself kind of kid. Quite happy to make up his own little world. But he’s got a friend who is needs direction and leading, the problem is when he comes over if he doesn’t like the direction The Boy is taking he asks us for ideas. (Sorry kid, you’re on your own.)

    Me… I’m with you on this one. The make belief stuff, I can do it for a short amount of time but I find it tiresome…

  11. I agree with FameThrowa.

    I used to feel badly that I didn’t enjoy playing with the kids but the reality is, I’m not a six or four year old girl, why would I want to play with Barbies anyway! I spend quality time with my kids, and I teach them lots of things.

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