Playing with my kids is not something I enjoy. All the good moms do it, it’s what they’re doing when they’re not washing dishes or picking up toys, and I wish it were something I enjoyed, but I do not.
I enjoy sitting with them at the breakfast table, during Treat Time after school, over dinner. As I prepared for this column and thought over it, I realized the times I bond with my children are when we are eating together, breaking bread, and that is why I have such anxiety over what I fix for dinner. But that’s a tangent I won’t go expand on right now.
The point is, I feel like I bond with my children. I take the time to sit and eat with them three times a day, I make their beds and clean their clothes and check their homework and color with them at the dining table, I pause what I’m doing to listen to their stories and laugh at their jokes.
But apparently that’s not enough.
G made a sudden, unprovoked comment a few years ago while in the truck with my father about how I never play with them (I wrote about that discussion shortly after). Since then, G and Little Missy will make comments every once in a while about how Mommy never plays with them.
And I don’t. For a while I didn’t think they were right, then I didn’t want to admit it, but lately I’ve just tried to get them to accept that facet of our relationship with a, “Nope, wrestling/playing catch/playing board games is something fun you can do with your Daddy.”
You see, the problem with playing games is that it always turns into arguments. They’re not huge explosions, but their bickering and complaining over who won is too much for me. I feel like the entire time we are playing a board game I’m on edge, waiting for the first complaint that I have to talk them through. I’d rather just eat a cookie with them for Treat Time.
Then last week Little Missy cried over the fact that I never play with them. Apparently this falls somewhere in her Love Languages and I have not been showing my love to her. So I pulled myself together with a little pep talk and the next day, promptly after Treat Time, Little Missy, G and I sat at the dining table and played Sorry.
We talked through our emotions of when we lose a turn/don’t move out of Start/get bumped back to Start. And then I just figured, You know what? They’re 7 and 9 years old. They can play a game without getting upset. So I told them to cut it out. They didn’t. So I told them the next time they argued they were going upstairs to their beds. And the next time they argued I slapped the table with my palm and told them to get moving. They were immediately, genuinely apologetic; they knew they’d pushed the nonsense arguing too far. But it was too late and I pointed upstairs.
Page 2 of 2 - Ten minutes later we group-hugged and talked about how it is just a game, and so help me the arguing has got to stop.
The next day, though, no board games after school. I took them out for an extra special Treat Time of ice cream. Because food and chatting I can handle. And I’ll work on enjoying the board games, I’ll just buffer it with lots of food in between.
Erin Fox is a busy wife and mother of three. She is a weekly columnist for the Times- Gazette.