'I love how you and Dad both play with me.' she says. 'I love to play these games with you, and I KNOW Dad loves to play games with you too.'
'But you're grown ups. Why do you still love to play?'
'It's so fun! I don't ever want to stop playing. Grown ups can still play.'
Just like that, the conversation is over for her. She's listened, processed and moved on to the next block tower or car race. But it leaves me thinking for a long time.
Some parents are natural born players. And sometimes playa'sssss. But mostly I'm referring to the get down on the floor, make believe cars and fairies games.
It's pretty safe to say that I'm not a natural born player with two children. With one child it was easier and simpler. Less distractions in the form of 'It's Pip's turn with the wand. Now it's your turn. Don't ride the cat like a horse. Do you need to go to the toilet?'. With one kid I found/find it far easier and enjoyable.
I have to make the time and mental space to sit down and play. When I do, I find it extremely rewarding. My kids have the most vivid imagination and listening to their play stories is something that bring me extreme joy.
Yesterday I had laid out an entire quilt top on my bed, switching blocks back and forth to get the layout just right. Millie ran into the room with Princess Cadence. Princess Cadence had a rope (USB extension cord) wrapped around her middle with my childhood Rainbow Dash attached. Princess Cadence tried to land on my quilt blocks and I said 'Argh! Millie! Not on the blocks!'
'But Mum! Princess Cadence has been flying for a long time. She needs to land. She's almost out of pixie dust and she'll crash!'
Who am I to argue with that? 'Oh I see! Make sure you tell her to land gently then please Mil.' Princess Cadence landed gently and all was well. I was so amazed at her internal dialogue and the way her stories follow through with consequences, and apart from anything else, they're so damned fun.
At 2.5, Pippa's stories are beginning to expand and flesh out minor details. Her cars are playing nicely with each other, the Barbies go to get their hair done and go down the slide and she and Millie play schools with the chalkboard.
I understand that it's important to be involved and play with your kids, but I think that it's equally important to encourage independent play. I could give you a Montessori Steiner Alternative Unschooling reason for this, but truthfully... this Mama needs some space to think and cook dinner.
I know there are parents who play with their kids All. The Time. The majority of parents I've met who do this genuinely love it. Then there's some who don't love it, but perhaps just like it enough and think that it's what they need to do, so they do it. My take home from this thought is that if you're doing what works best for you and your kids, then that's enough. I've made a concerted effort to play more and enjoy playing more because the look on my kid's faces when they ask 'Mum? Will you play with me?' and I say 'YES!' - that's worth more to me than all the spare time in the world.
This is but a stage of life. Soon they'll be at school, primary school, high school, leaving home, being grown ups, and I'll still be here. So for now, let them be little and let them play games. Sometimes, I'll play too.