(Im)perfect Parenting: Sometimes, playtime just sucks

Authored By Natalie Green

Welcome to (Im)perfect Parenting. My name is Natalie, and I’m here to write about being a parent and, in particular, about being a mother. Here’s a little bit of background: I’m a mom to a 3-year-old, and I’m also a robot.

OK, I lied about the robot thing. I’m sorry. But I really do have a 3-year-old daughter and have been married to my husband for almost eight years. I’m also ancient. GET OFF MY LAWN.

My main goal here is to write as honestly as I can about being a parent. You won’t find any pretty, Pinterest-worthy pictures of amazing crafts that I do with my child. There will be no toddler-friendly recipes, mostly because I’m lucky to get my child to eat a dinner that consists of more than a bowl of pickles and half a carrot. You are going to be getting the good, the bad, the stinky and the whiny, the things no one wants to talk about or admit to, the things that make you want to pull your hair out and run away screaming.

So without further ado …

Let me paint you a picture: You are sitting on the couch, relaxing, when, all of a sudden, your beautiful, magical, batcrap crazy, delightful preschooler comes barreling out of her bedroom, screeches to a halt in front of you and asks breathlessly, “Mama?! Do you feel good?”

Before you can even draw breath to answer, she screeches, “LET’S PLAY!”

You stare at this panting psychopath beautiful miracle before you, and this is what goes through your head:

Oh, man, Pumpkin, I’d really love to, but Mommy has come down with a severe case of lung … itis … pox. It’s contagious, and you should run

I would, but I just broke my orbital sockets. And my fingers. All of them. 

She can’t see me if I don’t move. That works for T. rexes AND toddlers, right?

What you actually say with an internal groan is,  “Yeah, baby. I’m coming.”

Why did you have such an adverse reaction to her innocent request? The reason is simple:

You SUCK at playing.

This is me. I suck at playing, and I think it’s BORING.  I can be engaged and “in the moment” for about 10 minutes of pretending to be Flynn Rider, but then, I start thinking about how much I’d rather be eating a sandwich or watching “Game of Thrones” or taking a leisurely stroll-through a field of angry hornets that are also on fire. (Mother of the Year Awards can be emailed directly to me. Thanks. I also accept accolades in the form of whipped cream vodka.)

I love my little girl, but there are only so many times that I can be whatever squeaky-voiced Disney character she is currently into. Dear Disney: Could you invent a princess that DOESN’T make parents want to kill themselves after hearing her sing for the 500th time? Seriously-field of fiery hornets.

Now, I love spending time with my daughter. I love to do things like run around the playground with her, take her to the Creative Discovery Museum and ride the carousel downtown, but when it comes to the “sit in her bedroom and play with the same five toys repeatedly” sessions, sometimes I … well, sometimes I just want to bash myself in the face. With a brick.

I really feel like there is this expectation of parents to be super-engaging with their children. Crafts! Learning activities! Educational board games! Why is there so much pressure to constantly create a stimulating environment for our kids and to be involved in every single second of their day? Whatever happened to letting kids play by themselves?

I am not saying that you should just plop your kid in front of the TV while you sit around Twittering or Tumblring or Digging or whatever the hell it is you kids are into these days (GET OFF MY LAWN)-I am just giving you a friendly suggestion that the next time your kid runs to you demanding that you play for the 10th time in two hours, maybe you tell them to go play by themselves for a while because if Mama doesn’t get a break from being Flynn Rider, it’s going to be vodka o’clock in about 10 minutes.

All joking aside, I really do love spending time with my daughter and think the feelings of dread that I have when it comes to playing with her stem from an insecurity and anxiety about my own ability to be creative and fun. I feel silly when I play, and I have to remind myself that that’s OK. She is ridiculous 99.9 percent of the time. The belly laugh that I get from her when she sees me being silly almost makes having to be Flynn Rider for the fifth time in a row worth it. I still keep that brick handy, though.

Just in case.

Natalie Green is a Chicago girl living in Chattanooga with her husband and their 3-year-old daughter. When she’s not working full time outside of the home, she enjoys reading, writing, singing, zombies and running. From zombies. And also beer. You can stalk her blog, Mommy Boots, or follow her on Twitter @mommyboots, or you can email her directly at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.