I love being a mom. I run a small business, I volunteer, and I have great friends. I even own shirts that say I am a cool, awesome mom. However, I recently realized I forgot to play with my toddler.
I have three children: eight and a half years old, six, and almost three. I remember how effortless playing with my first child was. We would lay on the floor for hours completely engulfed in toys, dress-up clothes, and imagination. I can tell you honestly I do not remember doing laundry at all during this time.
Get the Ball Rolling
Fast-forward to present day: I have three kids, two dogs, and a husband who commutes an hour each way, and I have never seen the bottom of my laundry hamper. My third-born seemed to have exited my body and was immediately placed into her car seat to accompany me for school drop offs, pick-ups, ballet class, gymnastics, and baseball practice. She has been toted along on field trips, class parties, siblings’ play-dates and countless trips to the library and Target.
Recently after a long day, I sat on the living room floor (truth be told, I was probably there cleaning up something) and casually rolled a plastic ball to her. Her bright eyes lit up as if I were the coolest mother in the universe and had handed her a unicorn. Oh my goodness. Was this the first time I’ve done this with her? How could I not have rolled a ball to my toddler? Between the house, the errands, all the trips to the zoo or parks, and all the “busy,” did I forget to sit and play with my baby?
We sat on the floor for at least 20 minutes, passing the ball back and forth. She giggled and gasped each time the ball rolled out of reach, and she gleefully got up to track it down — just to roll it back to me. We easily could have sat there all night.
I told myself I would make time to play solely with her every day from then on; however, the following days came with their lists of errands, pick-up times, phone calls, and work emails. So solo playing time, as it always had, got bumped down to the bottom of my list along with organizing the Tupperware.
Mom Level: Boss
I was beginning to think I was messing up this mom thing. I even poured on extra guilt each time I picked up my phone for work or to text a friend. I judged myself for sitting on the bench at the park while she played. Am I a boring mom? Do other moms see me sitting here and ask, “Why isn’t she playing with that toddler?”
Thankfully, clarity hit after a long day. I was sprawled out on the couch, exhausted and a little surprised my family had made it through the day fed and somewhat clean. It dawned on me: I am not the mom I used to be. I am better.
I don’t roll around on the floor like I did before, but the wealth of knowledge I have accumulated over the years of parenthood are invaluable. I know when one of my kids has a fever without even pulling out a thermometer. I learned the difference between an exhausted, hungry cry and the type of cry that means someone in my house will be in timeout soon. I know when my kids need to go to the park and burn off energy and when they need to skip a sports practice to catch up on rest. I can confidently say I have a 30-second lead on when someone is about to vomit.
Yes, I have made mistakes — and I am still making them — but my recovery time from those mistakes has improved. I am more confident in my parenting decisions and also more laid back on the little stuff. And as for play, I do play — it just looks different these days. I have been promoted from playmate to director. I am the judge of every kid bike race, the starter of dance parties in the kitchen, and the master and commander who sends the troops outside to play hide-and-go-seek.
Yes, I am going to make an effort to get on the floor and play with my toddler and let the chores wait. Play and interaction are absolutely important. But they are never going to be like with my first child because I am not the same mom I was back then. I am so much better.
Sorry, sweet third-born; I may not be an exciting playmate, but I am a great, well-seasoned mama (with a shirt to prove it).