My three boys know they can come to me for just about anything, and they do. Scrapes and scuffs, hurt feelings, hungry tummies, the list goes on and on. There is one role in which I consistently fall short, however, and that is the role of playmate. I can be relied on to keep things running smoothly, to show up for them when I say I will, or to comfort them and pick them up when they fall. But I'm not what you would call a “fun mom.”
I see those moms around and I admire them. I see them at playgrounds, playing hide and go seek and squeezing themselves into the tube slides that always smell like feet. I see them at school, enthusiastically signing up to help with class parties. If I feel like I have to sign up, I do so grudgingly and look forward to the event about as much as I look forward to getting my teeth cleaned. I wish I could be the fun mom but have come to realize that we all have different strengths and “fun mom” is never going to be mine.
I've tried it out on occasion. With three boys, the “fun” activity at our house seems to always be wrestling. The thing about wrestling is that it hurts and it's not very fun at all. I enjoy it okay with the toddlers (although it’s surprising how much damage a two-year-old elbow to the face can inflict). At a certain age, though, boys tend to get stronger than they realize and, if I’m being honest, a little stinky too.
I've also tried joining in my kid’s imaginary adventures but find my mind consistently wanders. I struggle to be in the moment when there is so much that always needs to get done elsewhere. Another problem is that once you start something with your children they'll expect you to continue on in perpetuity. Just try telling a toddler “all done” and see how well he takes it. Once they learn how to say “again,” it’s all over. They will hit you with “again, again” until you either pass out or die.
Playing is just not my favorite activity to do with my children. I would much rather read to them or have them read to me, cook with them, or cuddle up on the couch next to them during a movie night. Fortunately, my boys have a dad that loves to play and they take full advantage. They know they can rely on him for a wrestling brawl or tempt him to purchase a toy that he would enjoy along with them.
I want to work on being more present in the moment, no matter what I am doing with my kids. But just because I don’t enjoy playing with my kids does not make me an inadequate mother. When playtime is over, they will come back to me to have other needs met and I will happily oblige. I may not be a “fun mom,” but I am trying my best to be a good mom, and they seem to know and appreciate that.