Her eyes shine with anticipation and I remind myself that she’s only 4 one time. That playing is special to her. That she truly loves her little animals and having me sit there holding one as she tells me what to do.
But oh, part of me wishes that we could do anything else but play the same thing over and over again on the floor. I love reading to her, watching her learn, taking her to things like museums and zoos. Why is playing so hard? It’s like the mom equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.
We sit on the floor as she dictates what I’m able to have and how they should act.
“You can be this,” I’m handed a dinosaur and a bracelet. She has her choice of 376 other animals.
I grind my rusty imagination gears into start, attempting to come up with a storyline I might actually get into. “Hello, my name is Roger and…”
“NO.” She stops me suddenly. “His name is Dinosaur.”
Dinosaur weaves a storyline that Shakespeare himself would be proud of. I don’t glance at my phone (after initially taking the picture above of me getting to be a bracelet), I don’t get up to do anything, no distractions. I am completely hers for the time we play. I encourage the animals to share. We talk about being kind to others. They have a little bit of potty talk. “He POOPED!” she screams in delight, and I giggle because it’s just a phase.
Then I start to wind down. “5 minutes Bella, and I need to get dinner started.”
“Ok, I’m going to get dinner started. You can play still or you can read for a while.”
She falls apart as the guilt seeps in. Maybe we could make something faster for dinner?
I don’t know. There’s so much guilt tied up in these moments. The fact that she’s still an only child after all these years. If she had a sibling, maybe this would be easier on us?
I have a feeling it wouldn’t though.
Perhaps it’s because she’s just 4, and this is what 4-year-olds do. They want to play. All day, every day, with someone. She’s pretty darn amazing at playing alone – sitting on the floor near us or in her room for an hour in her own little world.
It just seems like she has radar for me – when I have to get things done, she suddenly has to be played with.
And then I get to be the bracelet.
It’s a tough balance, this motherhood thing. I feel most days like I’m walking a pretty shaky fence with mom guilt on both sides of it.
Diana blogs at Diana Wrote about her life with a daughter here and three sons in heaven, life as an army wife, and her faith. You can also find her work on Liberating Working Moms, She Reads Truth, The New York Times, Still Standing Magazine, and The Huffington Post. Smaller glimpses into her day are on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
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