At four and six, my boys are at some pretty great ages. In fact, they are playing at the park while I write this, sitting by myself on a quiet, sun-drenched patch of grass. They come to me for the occasional drink of water, snack request, or to plop on my lap before dashing back. It’s a surreal experience for me.
Not too long ago, my hands were permanently attached to their little bodies. I lifted them to a never-ending sequence of slide, swing, climb, repeat. Screams, running, tantrums, higher, faster, chase me, look at me, more, more, more. I appreciated the upper arm workout, but sometimes I didn’t want to take them to the park. It was draining. I had to constantly be in motion, be “on.” And sometimes I just didn’t feel like it.
I feel guilty for not wanting to play with my kids at all times.
Today as I sit, there’s a Dad climbing the slide and chasing his son around in a game of tag. There’s a mom pushing a group of kids on the little Merry-go-round as they scream gleefully. Earlier, I halfheartedly stood by the rock climbing wall saying, “Good job,” to my boys before I made a grateful escape to the mind-numbing bliss of the celebrities I follow on Instagram.
Sometimes I just need to turn off and tune out. Not to compromise my children’s safety, (I really am watching them…mostly) but just to give myself some “me” time. And although I respond to their gleeful, “Mom, look at me!” and “Watch this, Mom!” I still feel that guilt.
Quality time with kids was different for my parents (and probably yours).
We spent quality time with my dad by watching him play racquetball on Saturdays. He’d take my siblings and me to the health club, where we’d smush ourselves into a dark booth and entertain ourselves by pushing each other out onto the “hot lava” floor. Dad played hours of racquetball with his buddies and always ended by drinking beers with them afterward. Mixed with the intermittent cigarette smoking, I’m not sure how child-friendly this was. “Health” clubs were different in the eighties. However, if we were really good, he’d take us through the Dairy Queen drive-through afterward for a treat. I do love a Dilly Bar.
Quality time with my mom was her taking us to my grandparent’s house and making us play outside with our cousins while the adults stayed and talked in the cool, air-conditioned house. All afternoon. We were allowed to come inside and eat, then shooed back outside. We lived in Phoenix. In the fall and winter, this was great. In the summer, this may have bordered on child abuse. At least they set up a plastic play pool for us sometimes.
So, maybe, considering my genetics, I’m going above and beyond. I do play rather often with my boys. We play board games and basketball, tennis, racquetball, and golf. I take them swimming, to the library, and to go bowling. I play Nintendo and play dough. My husband and I take them hiking and camping, biking, scootering, and of course, to the park.
I mean, I’ve put in a LOT of quality time, right? I deserve this break.
So do you.