A few days ago I wrote about how much I dislike playing with my children. Then I linked it to my facebook with the caption “Playing with your kids makes you dumb! That’s why I don’t do it!”, and received a bit of a backlash/tongue lashing (what a strange phrase).
So, just in case anyone thinks that I despise children and that wish I never had mine, please unfollow me. It’ll be better that way.
Building lego towers 58 times in one day is boring. It really is okay to admit that. It is also okay to write about it with a bit of sarcasm. At midnight at the end of a long day letting loose some sarcasm can do wonders.
Please understand who am I. I was raised in northern Canada in the bush. (And yes, it is called bush. The trees are too short and there is too much muskeg for it to be classified as a forest. When I think of forests I think of Robin Hood and huge oaks.) My dad hunted and we rode horses with him while he was tracking game. At the age of five. My mom worked as a nurse at the nearest hospital and my siblings and I were responsible for chores on the farm and sending out the dog when there were bears around. We chopped holes in the ice when it was thirty below so that the horses had water. With an axe. In the dark. Before school. We didn’t have TV, so when it was too cold to go outside we read books. My parents wanted us to be confident and independent. I don’t really remember them playing with us, but they were always there. They taught us to ride horses, to read and to identify constellations. They were involved but not suffocating, watchful but not paranoid.
I am now the parent. Already my children are brave and sure of themselves. I like that. Yesterday Imogen told me that she’s a rock climber. Today she went to pre-school for the first time and loved it. They both enjoy books and are always wanting to be outside. They are affectionate and loving. I am not a perfect parent, but these things tell me that I am doing alright. I read to them, I do the occasional craft with them and I get Imogen stamps for her fake letters that she is constantly making. India likes to wrestle and cuddle so I can’t wear fancy shirts because they will end up destroyed. They both try to “help” me cook - it can be a tremendous pain in the neck, but who really cares if dinner is half an hour late or pie crust crumbs are all over the floor?
Even on the hardest days I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
I have a confession to make.
I don’t like playing with my children.
I love them beyond all reason, and I can only imagine the nanosecond that it would take for me to choose to die if they could live, but I really hate the tedium that is child’s play.
When I talk about child’s play, I’m not referring to the wonder that lights up Imogen’s face when she sees a butterfly dance in the air in front of her, nor am I talking about watching India Rose learn how to run down the hall, laughing like an insane demon-hyena. Child’s play is the incredible boredom of building the same damn lego tower time after time. Or crafts. I WANT to like crafts, I really do. I even ordered a couple of books from Amazon detailing what you can do with your toddler on rainy days: hours of fun with white glue (that you will forever be picking off your floor), googly eyes (the most fascinating thing for the baby to put in her mouth) and pipe cleaners. What the fuck are pipe cleaners for? The white glue doesn’t even work on them to make those thrice damned googly eyes turn the green pipe cleaner into a frog. Thanks for nothing Martha Stewart. (She actually has some pretty cool pipe cleaner/animal crafts on her website, but the tiger I made for Imogen didn’t resemble a stripy feline as much a deformed ball of orange pipe cleaner.)
I’ll write it as plainly as I can - playing with children can be very, very boring. When Imogen asks me to play dollhouse and I suggest activities for the doll family or ways to straighten the furniture, she simply responds with an emphatic “No!” and then tells me what I need to do instead. “Make the mummy push the stroller, Mummy!” That’s it. For a mind numbing half an hour. The baby is not much better, all she wants me to do is stick lego blocks together so that she can rip them apart.
The thing is, I think that I am probably supposed to love playing with my children. I’m supposed to “cherish every moment”, and always be available for them on whatever level they need so that they will grow up secure and whole. It seems as if the expectation for modern parenthood is to never leave your child alone, and above all make sure they are entertained and stimulated, even if it means your own brain is slowly congealing into a huge ball of stupid. How can I possibly stay updated on global affairs when I have wooden vegetable soup to make or block towers to build? Believe it or not, there is nothing challenging about winding a jack-in-the-box thirty times in a row.
Speaking of blocks, I’d like to build on the block building. We’ve all seen them - the blocks with the letters and animals, and as we are playfully stacking them so that the baby can smash them down to make a huge crash, we are also saying the letters and animals so that their brains will be stimulated and they will always be at the top of their class. My child has been capable of writing her own name since two, what about yours? (Note: this is a lie. I don’t think Imogen knows how to spell her own name, much less write it.) I am extremely confident that my children have more than enough brainiac capability, and I just don’t feel that “education play”, like flash cards, is going to do much to enhance that. She’s going to learn what a cat is someday. Same goes for umbrella. I’ll just throw this out there - my kids will probably learn more from listening to Axel and I talk to each other, and from us talking to them than a world of Leapfrog computers or Baby Einstein flashcards will ever teach them.
So what would I rather do than than play with my kids? Read. Both by myself and with them. Write in the journals that I keep for them so that they will have a chronicle of their childhood. Take way too many photos of them. Ignore them. Let them play without me structuring their time or depending on me to outline imaginative games. Kids are so much more creative when we just leave them alone. Imogen can glue her own god-damned googly eyes. If they end up on the feet of some weird construction paper fish, all the better. If I help her with it, I’ll end up putting the eyes where they belong, and where’s the fun in that? By leaving my kids to play by themselves, we all benefit: they learn to use their imagination for their own amusement and I don’t feel like I’m being sucked into the never-ending vortex of parenting. Which leaves me with more fun energy for other stuff, like going for walks and cuddling and dancing and making banana splits.
The days are too long to spend working on a 9 square foot Dr. Suess puzzle that is missing two pieces, especially when India just walks all over it and makes Imogen wail that it’s wrecked.
And life, especially childhood, is too short to not enjoy it. Even if that means sometimes I sit back, drink my coffee and watch my kids learn to be independent and imaginative, after which I go back to my book.
Well, I’ve recently reviewed all of my summer photos and I have ONE of myself.
In an attempt to deal with the very pressing problem of not having any gorgeous recent photos of myself I determined to take my own. With my DSLR and tripod. Nothing came out of it except a bunch of hideous, blurry pictures and an excessive amount of quietly said shit mother-fuckers (the kids are napping). So, after deleting the huge waste of time in the form of self portraits off of my computer, I resorted to the good old handy web cam.
Here you go.
New fall hair colour (Same frizz/curl). Totally done with nude lips. And yes, I do need to clean my house.