When my first child was still baking in the oven I used to imagine all the fun things we'd do together. I dreamed of rocking her to sleep, reading her stories each night, dressing her in adorable, coordinated outfits, and playing with her.
I do love playing with my kids. Mostly. But if I have to drive Peppa Pig to the shoe box grocery store using my high-pitched piggy voice, or pretend Evie from Disney’s "Descendants" is getting her first kiss at the ball even one more time, I’m going to lose my shit.
There are dozens of things I enjoy doing with my kids. I'll bake cookies with them, paint a masterpiece, read books, tell stories, and build the best pillow fort the Land of Nod has ever seen. I’ll take them for walks, run around at the park, and even play hide-and-seek for an hour.
But I no longer have the patience for playing pretend. It makes me want to scratch my eyes out.
My youngest will beg me to play with him, “Pleeeease, Mommy!” he pleads. And I'll give in. For about two minutes and fifteen seconds before I tap out. “Luke Skywalker is killing you! Buzz, buzz! I just killed you with a light saber!” my son will yell.
“Oh no, Mommy’s dead! She has to go wash the dishes now,” I tell him. Because I actually would rather wash the dishes. At this point, he usually cries. And, before I came to the realization that playing pretend is making me crazy, I'd give in for another couple minutes. His crumpled face breaking my mean mommy streak. But I've reached my limit…even his tears and pleas can no longer move me.
On the rare occasion I do consent to playing Barbie Dream House with my 8-year-old, I’m criticized. In a condescending tone I’m told, “You’re not doing it right!” because, apparently, Barbie doesn’t speak with a British accent.
I'll haughtily inform my daughter that cultural diversity is a thing, or hasn’t she heard? And also, could you loosen the reigns a bit? Give up some creative control, would ya kid? I can play how I want. Don’t like it? Play with your imagination…that’s what it’s there for.
My son is no better. His 3-year-old brows draw together in a most irritated expression, “Little Bunny Foo Foo hops like this mom, not like that.” You moron, mom.
Why do I hate it so? I played pretend with the best of them when I was a kid, although I don’t remember my parents ever playing Polly Pocket with me. Monopoly for three hours? Sure. A two-day, thousand-piece puzzle extravaganza? Why not? But they didn’t play pretend.
It seems strange to me that I can’t stand it. I have a wonderful imagination and can tell a killer story from off the top of my head. I love to imagine my own fantasy worlds, but I simply don’t have it in me to march My Little Pony’s Twilight Sparkle across the carpet, or dangle Woody by his pull string "like in the movie" any longer.
I try to soften the blow by suggesting a different game. “How ‘bout Candy Land for the hundredth time? What about this Thomas the Train puzzle? Or we can build a tower with Legos?” That usually works, but sometimes my kidlets simply won’t budge, and more and more I’m saying no.
“Go play with your brother,” I tell my oldest. “That’s why I had him.” I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Tell me I’m not the only one!
The mommy guilt kept me playing pretend for a few years, but I've started to rationalize my refusal. “I do lots of other fun stuff with my kids,” I tell myself. I’m a good mother. I don’t ignore my children. I listen when they talk. I give them so much of my time.
I feel justified in not doing this one, teensy-weensy thing that makes mommy lose her effing mind. And really, isn’t it better for my kids to have a mother who doesn't feel compelled to put her head through a wall? Isn't that better for everyone?