Parenting is a full time job. Changing diapers, organizing car pools or even managing daily affairs is not easy. Then of course add to that the worries of the future! No wonder some parents are so stressed out. They take it so seriously that they forget to smile and laugh with their children. Many expecting mothers glow with the thought of having a “little bundle of joy” and fantasize about how they will build their lives with the baby. However, the moment the baby is born, the parents become stressed and overworked and forget to enjoy themselves. I suffered from two very short bouts (less than a week) of post partum depression with my two oldest kids and I think it had a lot to do with realizing what I had just gotten myself into. This parenting stuff is HARD work…but that its what makes play time so important. Parenting is a great job only when you treat it like a pleasure and not pain.
The first thing that you need to do to start enjoying the pleasures of parenting is to play with your children. Yes, you heard right! Playing is not just for the kids it’s for the parents too. Have you heard that proverb which says, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Playing is as essential for a kid as studying and even more important if you consider its advantages.
Child psychologists are of the opinion that play is actually what children are supposed to do in the first few years of their lives. Many new schools actually give children a period where they are just allowed to play with toys. Play fosters imagination and even strengthens relationships. The book Playful Parenting discusses this at length and talks about how we can learn a lot about our kids by watching them play, by being there to witness the process or be a part of it.
How can you become a playful parent? How can you help in the development of the child through imagination?
If you refer to the dictionary meaning of play, it is defined as recreation. Recreation can be split as RE-Creation or recreating bonds and revitalizing your relationship with your child through play. These playtimes can be a great morale booster and energizers of the family. If kids know that tonight is the night for Monopoly, Scrabble or even snakes and ladders, it gives them an additional impetus to finish their chores and homework faster. Check out my post on board games for some great eco games to try.
Earlier in the absence of television kids had to use their imagination to play. They used to rush out in the evenings and spend hours in jumping, running or even making sand castles. Eventually, their mothers had to call them for dinner. I have to do this with my oldest (8 years). After we finish his schoolwork in the mornings he will often go outside for the rest of the day. I have to call him in for lunch and then again for dinner. That was me as well. When I was his age I used to come home from school and rollerblade until well past dark with only a brief break for dinner. I relished that time and weekends were for family play.
These days kids are programmed to either finish their marathon of homework or watch television. Parents are too busy trying to earn enough money just to make ends meet. However, parents need to realize that playtime is an effective contributor in the overall development of your child’s personality. When you play with your kids, they consider you more of a pal rather than some kind of an authority figure. Playing with kids effectively tells them that you are someone who can be a friend, who can share secrets and laugh with them, instead of just admonishing them. I know there are many who think being your child’s friend is a bad thing but I disagree with them. I think parents need to be both authority figure and friend. Not like the boss you don’t care for but the knowledgeable mentor you admire.
When I think of my mom during my childhood the things that stand out revolve around play. She made us a Bible trivia board game from scratch once…using poster board and then hand painting an elaborate and colorful game board. She made the game pieces, she made all the hundreds of trivia cards, and we played every week and LOVED it. I also remember her playing guitar at group camping adventures and I remember her donning a pair of tap shoes at one of my slumber parties and putting on a show for us. I remember all of us (mom and 3 kids) dancing around the house to Rock Lobster. She was/is a very fun and playful woman and still managed to be an authority figure. She was the heavy in fact and there is not a day that goes by without my seeing her or speaking with her…or my dad.
Being a playful parent also takes care of your kid’s well being and future. In this stressful world we need an outlet for venting our feelings and frustration. Most people depend on the television or video games for entertainment, which is one of the major factors in lifestyle diseases such as type II diabetes. Activities keep your kids healthy. So parenting is not just about studies and homework. It’s also about having a fun time in the park!
Years from now I want my children’s most prominent memories of me to be all the fun things we did and all the times we played together. How about you?