#000/111 Days of Games: Time To Play
October 19, 2016
I was a damn good babysitter.
I engaged with kids on their level every minute that I was on the clock. I received compliments like, “You actually know how to talk to children” from a wealthy, totally disengaged dad after I addressed his three-year-old son like a human being.
I judged the parents hard.
I was horrified by that dad. When his wife who had too much “help” but still seemed overwhelmed stood in the middle of the room and screamed “I just need a fucking hair tie!” while others scurried around her packing for a trip to the zoo, I handed her the elastic from my hair with a cold gaze. I had no love for the middle class parents either. They seemed so busy all the time, so overly concerned about logistics and meals, so stiff, strained and un-fun with their kids.
Then I became a parent.
I hopped right off my high horse. “Ha!” I told anyone who would listen. “I was such a good babysitter. It’s so easy when the kids are your sole responsibility for a set period of time. Now I totally get what all those parents were going through. It’s so overwhelming. It’s so hard. Bla, bla, bla.”
Being a parent is harder than I expected it to be.
But I’m starting to realize this isn’t the end of the story. I’m 36 and my three boys are three, six and eight. I feel like I’ve just been ejected from the tornado of the last 8 years and now I’m hurtling through the sky. I can see the ground. I’m traveling quickly but also in slow motion. People and things float past, Wizard of Oz style. The mom with the hair tie: “I’ve been meaning to give this back to you.” My grandfather with a deck of cards, ready to play. My kids and their beautiful faces and soft skin and their voices: “Mommy? Mommy? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom? Mom?” “What!” “Will you play Uno with me?” “Not now.” “Candyland?” “No” “Go Fish?” “Mommy’s working.” “Mommy’s busy.” “Mommy’s cooking.” “Mommy doesn’t feel like it, maybe later.” Record scratch. Something is not right.
I loved playing with kids and I was good at it.
And then Ben and I had our own, and I have made a lot of excuses for not being truly engaged. NYC working mom culture has backed me up, of course: “You’re doing the best you can. I mean, Jesus, you’re the bread winner. You’re trying to do it all, give yourself a break. Parenting is super hard. It’s 24–7. Don’t beat yourself up.”
One of the biggest excuses is “They know they are loved, and that’s enough.”
What do I want them to remember about their childhood? About me, their mother? “I knew I was loved, but my mom was always working.” or “I knew I was loved and my mom worked a lot, but she also made time to play and was truly there for me.”? What do I want to remember about these years of cinderblocks whipping past my head in a twister?
I want to play with them.
Because I want to truly see them, and know them.
And I want them to see me and know me too.
And so begins:
111 days of games
I’m going to play a different game with one, two, or all three of my kids every day for 111 days. I will be blogging here and posting on Instagram, starting tomorrow. Why? Because a game is a commitment. Sitting down in front of a pile of legos with no beginning and no end completely freaks me out. Don’t get me wrong, I do sit down with the legos from time to time. I do play with my kids. But I’m always halfway somewhere else, usually halfway absorbed with my phone that’s halfway hiding under my leg. Sneaking off to do something else after a few minutes and forgetting to come back.
I like games. And my kids LOVE games. It’s harder to become disengaged during a game and it’s harder to text or check email. Plus, there’s an end in sight. I will be putting my phone under my mattress while playing games during this challenge.
Use the hashtag #111daysofgames on and start whenever. Let’s see what we discover. Please follow, comment and share. The parameters are pretty open. The only hard rule I’m giving myself is, it has to be a different game every single day. Sports count. Boardgames count. Tic tac toe? Yup, but only once. So I’ll be saving that one for a pinch. Wish me luck.