Playing together

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on October 10, 2008, but its message about the importance of presence is as timely today as then.

By Tara, Feels Like Home

1124423__chalk_I have a secret.

I am a mom’s group drop out. I researched for months and found a local playgroup so that my daughter and I could meet some local moms and kids. I joined, paid my dues and then I flunked out. They didn’t ask me to leave or ban me from membership. I just stopped going. I didn’t fit in.

The problem wasn’t the other mothers or the other kids. The problem is that I’d rather play with my daughter than sit and chat with the other moms.

My own mother thinks I’m weird.

I’m one of those play-on-the-floor moms. I’m not only tuned in to what my toddler is doing, but I want to be a part of it. I zoom the trucks around and read books and make the animals’ noises. I talk and squeal with her while we play. The other moms at our playgroup supervise their kids, but they don’t participate in the play. I join in.

When I’m out in public with my daughter, other adults often offer me a seat because I sit down on the floor. I never take it. I’d rather sit on the floor and play with my toddler. No matter where we are, we play with the toys. I chase her, and she chases me. I point out objects in the room and in pictures and books. We have fun, and we’re usually more than a little raucous.

I love every minute of it, and her laughter, hugs and kisses tell me that she loves it, too.

For me, being present in my daughter’s life isn’t the same as being in the same room at the same time. It’s not about watching her play. Being present, to me, is playing together, being involved with her thoughts and actions, and actively communicating with her.

As she grows up, I hope my daughter will recognize that I would do anything to spend more time with her. I hope she remembers what a happy toddler she was and the times we sat on the floor or in the grass and played.

I doubt that she’ll remember, but I know I’ll never forget.

Even if she doesn’t recall the moments or the days, my daughter will remember feeling loved and adored and knowing that she commanded my full attention. She’ll remember the way she felt when I tickled her belly or pushed her in the swing and how she was important enough to be the center of my world.

I know that all parents don’t enjoy playing on the floor. Whether you do or you don’t, you can still be present in your children’s lives. You can create moments they’ll remember. Let them be the center of your attention. Make them special breakfasts or desserts. Don’t just sit in the same room: Get involved. Draw together. Talk. Play a game. Enjoy their toys together.

You will never regret the time you spent being present in their lives.

9 thoughts on “Playing together”

  1. That post really hit home for me. I’m the mother of a spectacular 15-month-old baby girl who is, of course, the center of my life. But I regularly interact with moms who take a frighteningly hands-off approach to parenting their babies. I’ve heard the word “spoiled” and “demanding” applied to my daughter because she wants my attention she has it.

    I do believe that at the heart of this parenting phenomenon is anti-feminism. Motherhood is routinely lauded by the Right, but the type of motherhood they mean is traditional, conventional motherhood that doesn’t respect the child or the mother. It’s not about ensuring that children are engaged and loved, or that women have power to make choices, and the right to care for their children in intuitive ways. It’s about mommy-is-at-home/daddy-is-at-work.

    As a feminist, I think of active, engaged, loving mothering of my daughter as something that enriches us both, that is powerful for both of us, that makes the choices I’ve made to eschew the social norms of cribs and formula and crying-it-out and authoritarian parenting, valuable.

  2. I am also a very tuned in parent. I spend a great deal of time engaged in active play with my daughter. That said, I really enjoy the support of other mothers and their conversations at play groups. I also take great pleasure in watching my child play with other children and watching her embrace her newly found independence. It is so important for children to take steps away from mom when they’re ready and begin to explore the world on their own. Where better to take such small but imperative steps than a play group? I commend you for you active interest in your toddler but I would be careful not to assume that women engaged in adult conversation in these situations don’t enjoy floor-play with their kids.

  3. My oldest is three and I have felt guilt for three years because I do not enjoy playing. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law are the most devoted on-the-floor-playtime people you will ever meet, and I have felt guilty every moment that I’m not on the floor playing and every moment that I am on the floor but not enjoying it. Lately, I have discovered the things that I do enjoy . . . I LOVE to cook with her. I LOVE doing art projects, taking nature walks, having a cup of tea and chatting together, and doing special activities with her. And I have found that when she has my full attention for these things, that she is content playing by herself at other times when I need to get things done. I think time for freeplay helps develop her imagination as well, and I can enjoy my children so much more when I am parenting from my strengths.

  4. Hmm.. Let’s be careful here. It is wonderful to be tuned in as a parent and but that does not mean that we have to play with our children to the exclusion of adult interaction. Both are necessary and we all find our own comfortable balance.

    I, for one, love interacting with other mamas and I expect my children to keep themselves busy while I do so. I am always there for them if they need me, but overall, I leave them to their work of playing. This works for us, but I would never presume that this is the right balance for any other family.

    You sound like a beautiful, committed mama and you seem to be having a wonderful time with your child. A perfect combination. Thank you for your post.

  5. As much as I love playing with my baby, I also love when she is happily playing on her own. And if I get to have some adult conversation at the playground while she is playing, WHOO HOO!! Adults! Being a SAHM can be so isolating in our western culture.

  6. I totally understand! Thankfully, I have been blessed to have a group of on-the-floor mamas to interact with… so not only are we visiting with eachother… but we’re also playing (on the floor) with our kids, too…. all together. For me, it is really the best of both worlds. While I agree adult interaction is important… at this season, my daughter is MOST important… children are only little for such a *short* time…. time of which I can’t afford to miss a moment! 🙂

  7. It’s so adorable that you love to play with your child rather than sitting on a bench with the other moms. I’m so happy to see that you are well aware that your child isn’t going to be a child forever. Enjoy the days with your little ones. Before you know it they’ll be big and off on their own.

  8. You are implying that the other mothers who are interacting with each other are not as great as you are. I love playing with my son. I’m a stay at home mom and I love being with him. I also like being with other moms and talking to adults. I’m always there for my son but he also needs other children. I enjoy watching him as he makes friends and plays with children his own age. You’re assuming that the other mothers just always ignore their children. I’m sure they too are “on the floor moms” but during a mom group they give their kids the opportunity to play with others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.