I am not the "play" parent anymore. There, I said it.
I swear it wasn't always like this. I did play with them when they were smaller. A lot. There was painting and puzzles and peekaboo and play dough and all the other play stuff. We would bake cookies and get messy and then all tumble into my big bed for a nap, exhausted and blissful. I used to take pictures all the time, I needed to capture all our silly adventures together. And we had lots of them. Swimming, forest walks, bug hunts, a day at "Fish Mouth", hanging out with Lucy the elephant or howling with the wolves or Gibbon monkeys at the zoo, roaring at dinosaurs at Jurassic Forest. Life with the littles was ridiculously fun!
I am not sure when things changed. Maybe it was when both of them started going to preschool at the same time. And then came the other activities to fill up our days. All of a sudden there were swimming lessons, gymnastics, Sportball, music, dance... All the activities and programs meant to enrich our lives and give my kids new skills and learning experiences. This year it was kindergarten, soccer, school events, and more.
I have became obsessed with our schedules, finding programs that they can both do or at least do at the same time and then getting us from point A to point B to point C and back again. I wait outside their classes with all the other parents or sneak away quickly to grab a coffee or run an errand. Somehow, lost amidst the thrill of them being old enough for "unparented" classes and finding all these great programs and activities, I have become the person outside of the adventures. It is second nature to me now to get them to their classes, find my favourite waiting chair, pop open my phone and entertain myself on social media for 30-45 minutes. Yes, that is right, I am THAT parent. On the phone, with my head phones on, in my own world, separate from the one I have paid a lot of money for my kids to be in.
I am ashamed to admit it, but all of that sitting on the sidelines or in the waiting rooms "unparenting", seems to have seeped into my world at home too. Too often I find myself telling the kids to go play together without me (which they do really, really well) while I sit back and waste time online or busy myself with housework. It took me overhearing a conversation between Little C and his dad last week to make me realize how much this kind of behaviour is affecting my kids.
Dad: "Why are you so upset with Mommy right now?"
Little C: "Because she never wants to play with us anymore and is always chit-chatting or working on her phone."
And there I was, standing around the corner with a laundry basket in my hands and my heart breaking into a thousand pieces.
What have I done? How did I let this happen? And more importantly, how do I change things?
Here is my plan.
It is time to find the FUN again. School is done in less than 2 weeks. We have one bike camp booked and will continue with our swimming lessons throughout the summer, but other than that, we are not enrolled in any other programs. The kids and I are going to make a list. A summer bucket list. A big one we will write out and can put up on the wall, full of all the fun adventures we want to have this summer. And then we are going to do it ALL and I am going to take a LOT of pictures!
Because this tiny bit of disconnection that my child is feeling from me, and to be honest, that I am feeling from my child, I have done this to us. For all the good intentions I have enrolling my kids in extracurricular activities and enriching arts and physical activity programs, somehow in all of it, I have let them down. In my efforts to provide them with new life experiences and skills, I have forgotten the most important one.
Being connected to me and a part of my world.
And the thing is, they are not only a part of my world, they are THE MOST IMPORTANT AND PRECIOUS parts!
So if you'll excuse me, I have some reconnecting to do and a bucket list to make with my children!
P.S. I will post our #summerbucketlist once it is completed (and which will likely be a dynamic one) and we can all have some great adventures this summer! I'd love to hear what's on yours too!