I mentioned in my last post that I pretty much stink at playing with my kids. It's not something that comes easily to me. There were a couple of comments in response and also a blog a friend of mine posted that got me thinking and wanting to expand on that.
I'm ok with not being my childrens playmate. But I want to want to play with them. I want to instinctively know when to let go and get down and play.
My oldest always needed attention when he was playing "mom, look at this", "then this guy flies through the air and hits this guy and then . . ." he always wanted an audience. Frankly, it was exhausting.
I think it's important for children to learn to play on their own. I also think it's sad that I have to say "learn to play on their own".
When I was growing up, you just did. I grew up in a suburban neighborhood, so I often had friends to play with - but there were many times I didn't. In those times there was my younger sister. Or a book. Or some sort of make believe in the back yard, or coloring or twiddling your thumbs. Something.
I mean, as you grow up you expect to not play anymore. I don't know why or when. One day you wake up and don't want to dig in a sandbox I guess, who knows?
But that's when you get older. Like 15 or 30 or 60 or something. Not at 5. Not at 10.
Seems today, many kids (my own included) don't really know how to play. Like it has to be taught. I think because, for so many kids - they don't have time to just be kids. Kids are pretty much shoved into a fast paced world from the minute they can sit up on their own. They are bombarded with TV and Baby Einstein. With programs that 'teach' them to read by 18 months. With play-dates and flash cards. With sports and band and 3 hours of homework a night.
When they do have downtime, they just want to totally veg. They want mindlessness. TV and video-games, oh boy.
I know how that feels. I've had days coming home from work that I've been so tired the only thing I want to do is lay down and melt my brain in front of the TV for an hour. And I think that's ok sometimes. I'm not anti-TV. I'm not anti-video games.
But. Somewhere along the way - in our quest to make them happy with everything we never had, in our desire for them to get ahead - to be smarter and faster and more talented - our kids stopped being kids. Ok, they never stopped being kids. They stopped being treated like kids and instead like little adults.
I'm guilty of this. Mostly with my oldest. He just always seemed so adult like. Really. He's much wiser then his years, always has been. But you know what? He has no common sense. None. I don't know why.
I felt a little guilt (still do) sometimes - we moved the boys out of a neighborhood - away from their friends and into the country.
Some days, they don't know what to do. And I don't know what to tell them. I can't entertain them all the time. They have to learn how to play. Alone. My youngest is much, much better at this than my oldest.
I have some friends that freak out if their kids go barefoot or play in the mud. Dirt doesn't scare me. I don't mind it, I think there is nothing better than a kid who's been playing so hard he's covered head to toe in mud and sweat.
What I can't handle is the thought of injury. I am no good with blood. So I have to learn to let go. I have to not freak out when they climb a tree. I have to consider that pocket knife my oldest has been bugging me about (he is going to be 12 after all).
Last year, when my oldest was in 5th grade he had around 3 hours of homework a night and at least one project a month. This year he has maybe 30 minutes a night. He has projects, but most of them are done in school. They also have Phys. Ed every other day instead of every 4 days like at the old school, the "better" school.
I am so ok with him having less homework. Really. I don't think more homework makes him smarter or will get him into a better college. I think it bores him and makes him sick of school.
Anyway. I've forgotten exactly where I wanted to go with this.
Basically, I think all of us - the whole damn country, kids and adults - everyone needs to turn off our TVs and our computers and our video games. We need to turn off our ovens for a few minutes and put down the laundry and shut off the vacuum. And go outside and play. Right now. Put on your snow pants or your galoshes or your sunblock and go climb a tree or roll down a hill or jump in the mud.
And bring your kids.