A few years ago I read the book Playful Parenting by Lawrence J. Cohen. This book was pretty much the opposite of how I had been parenting, but it promised the connection with my children that I hoped for, so I dipped my toes in and tried out some of Cohen’s advice. I pretended I was a fun mom who does silly things. Fake crying beside your kid is actually quite helpful for staving off those mommy tantrums and inducing giggles in both my children and myself. I also highly recommend filling up your wee ones with love. Have them sit on your lap or beside you and starting at their toes rub or gently tickle some love up to their hair. It works like a charm to cheer up a cranky kiddo.
I’ve become pretty decent at “doing” the silly I initiate. A funny noise to sooth away the grumpies or creating a game to keep my frustrations at bay when I’m faced with a pint sized dawdler.
It’s that darn child led play that I pretty much suck at. Please don’t ask me to play ponies with you, I just really really don’t want to sit on the floor and pretend that this one is that one’s mother and then they eat pie and fly to the moon to find the sister, who just happens to be camping there with her best friend. It’s like a weird soap opera that doesn’t make sense and I can never seem to follow.
I’ve had a bit of an epiphany this week about participating in the games my little munchkin thinks up. I have just returned from a 7 days of “vacation” with my children (no helpful husband on this trip). Part of our time was spent staying with friends who are care takers at a summer camp. My bigger kids had plenty of freedom to run and play and experience the awesomeness that camp had to offer.
My nearly 4 year old was often left behind with me. It’s not that she was jealous or anything like that. More like a little lonely and looking for someone to play with. So she made up her own little games. Stopping in the middle of the path as we were walking together, putting her feet in the air while I was trying to talk with her on my lap, you know things little people think are funny and I think are kind of annoying.
Somehow (by the grace of God?) I managed to keep my irritation in check and play along. I pretended to stumble on our walks and looked at my Delaney girl in mock shock that she would do such a thing. I gave her 3 chances to have me catch her rude foot in the act and tickle the little culprit into submission.
Instead of a broken hearted, left behind little girl, I had the company of this glorious, giggly little creature who felt loved. Little arms would randomly wrap themselves around my leg and “I love yous” would melt my heart.
So you might say I was faking it intentionally. What wasn’t fake though was the message I was trying to convey. “I love you.” “You are smart and you have good ideas.” “You are funny and I enjoy being with you.” (Most of the time) “I’m so glad I’m your mom.”
Playing along took such a little bit of my time. I will admit that it was counter intuitive to meander as I walked from point A to point B instead of power marching to my destination, but it really only held me up a few more seconds that usual.
And I didn’t have to torture myself with My Little Ponies and their dramatic antics.
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