When my five-year old goddaughter wants to build a fort and play dollhouse, I say yes! To heck with making dinner for the teenagers; they had to fend for themselves last night.
But back when it was my five-year old sons wanting to build forts and play “smashing dinosaurs,” it was so much harder to find enough “yes-time” to match their requests. It’s a tough spot our generation of parents is in. We expect ourselves to do it all as parents and managers of households AND still have endless time to be our kids’ favorite playmates. It’s a big ask. I consider myself to have had good parents and yet the thought that my mom should sit down and play dolls with me never once crossed my mind when I was a girl.
It’s unreasonable to expect that we can play as much as our kids might want us to and also take care of our tasks of running a household and adult life.
So, what to do?
My take has been to find bits of time to sit and play where I am “all in.” It’s a mental discipline to turn off the phone, bring my mind into the present moment and play. I have to convince myself to let the room be messy, let the dishwasher be full, let the texts be unanswered, and just play for a little bit. And when I simply cannot play? I look for the “yes.” “Yes, I’d love to play with you! We can do that when _________.” The answer to “when” might be later today when I’m not running around like my hair is on fire. Maybe it’s “yes” for 10 minutes. Or “yes” if it’s a puzzle (my fave) instead of smashing dinosaurs (Palmer’s fave). Or “yes” on the weekend.
We can’t stop every time they ask. That’s an unreasonable expectation. But we can try to honor the fact that our precious little people are asking for our attention.
We can affirm that we love to be with them and then find our “yes.”
Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT
©2018 Kerry Stutzman, Head & Heart Parents