Thursday, October 18, 2012

Not a Good Playmate

I currently work per diem for a rehab hospital that primarily treats adults, but does have one pediatric floor. So once in a blue moon, I get floated down to work with pedi patients.

The staffing coordinator/scheduler commented one day that pedi specifically requested a therapist that "knows how to play". She responded, "Joy knows how to play, she's got 2 kids!". When I worked on the floor that day, I realized that I felt a bit out of my element. My job was to play? And not multitask keeping the child entertained and happy while I managed other elements of the household?" I found it challenging.

There's a push from some parenting "experts"to play through everything. Playful Parenting encourages parents to approach all behavior and discipline issues through play. Play through all of your daily routines. Play through any conflict that comes along. You don't need discipline when you have play.

I have a really hard time with this. Play is important for children. Play is how they learn many things. But play is not everything. Play is most effective when it's not structured by adults. And discipline is different from play. It is necessary to help kids learn limits. I will not joke with my girls when they disobey me.

Am I really a bad mom because I don't play all the time? Certainly there's plenty I can offer without being their constant playmates. For Pete's sake, I had them so close together so they'd always have a friend to turn to. I do things they can't do for each other. I teach. I comfort. I help. I hug, tickle, hold, rock, boost, and carry. I cook, clean, clothe, and provide the elements they need in their days for action and inaction. And yes, sometimes, I do play.

At the end of the day, I don't want to be their best playmate. I want to be the foundation they build on, the walls that keep them safe, and the pillow they can fall back on. Sometimes that requires not being their best friend, and sometimes that takes too much work to have a lot of free time (and energy) to play.

So I will continue with my current approach to parenting. I will not play or trick my kids into cooperation. As my girls can recite, "I use my words to teach you and keep you safe." That is my job. I pay their preschool teachers to play with them all day. They do a better job of it, anyway.

1 comment:

  1. Amen! Amen! I never play. Play one game of "pretend" and you'll pay for it for weeks with attention demands. Besides, I'm no good at it. My inner sardonic adult is too strong.

    I have tea parties, I dress dolls, I even color--but I never play. It's like that song about "toyland" --"once you pass its borders, you may never return..."

    As for play substituting for rules--if we had worlds enough and time!

    Really enjoying your blog, Joy!

    From Polly