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I Lost My Inner Child, and Now I Hate Playing with My Kid

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

“Mommy, be the monkey! Be the monkey, pleeeeeeeeeeeaaaaasssseeee.”

I sigh because my daughter knows I am sucker for her smile, and for good manners. I sigh because I know I will not say no — my daughter is an only child and I cannot say no — and I sigh because I am sick of being the goddamn monkey. I am tired of being a dinosaur, and dear lord my back is so over being “the pony.” Why? Because I loathe playing. I SUCK at playing.

The truth is, I am just no good at making up stories and using my “imagination.”

But my daughter — my cheese-loving, purse-wearing tyke — is curious. She is smart and sassy. She is full of life and full of energy, and she is inventive.

She is very, very creative.

Where I see a dish towel, she sees sheets for an impromptu doll bed — or a flag for her invisible pirate crap. Where I see underwear, she sees a hat — or a potholder for her play stove. And where I see a cheap, plastic laundry basket, she sees a car, a boat, or a spaceship.

Where I see a laundry basket, she sees endless possibilities.

But her creativity doesn’t stop there.

When we sit down to color, she immediately starts drawing because she already has an idea in her head, and she is determined to see her vision come to life.

When I ask her if she knows any songs about castles or the kitchen sink, she immediately busts out a melody. She makes up lyrics, and fills in the blanks, along the way.

Oh, and did I mention that when asked what she wants to be when she grows up, her answer is “a lollipop?”

Talk about an imagination.

However, when I am confronted with a blank sheet of paper, I panic. I worry about what I can create — what I will create — and if it will be good enough. If I am good enough. Fear stops me. My mind stops me, and no matter how much time I spend staring that that goddamn sheet, I always settle on one of my go-to illustrations: i.e. I draw a spider, a tree, a flower, or cartoon characters of our family.

(Oh, and sometimes I draw shapes or rainbows — but I reserve those ideas for when I am really stuck, and when I want to impart some educational fun.)

When I am asked to sing songs about random objects, I turn to Google. I scour iTunes.

And when asked what I want to be when I grow up, my answer is practical. My answer is realistic and — well — an actual occupation. And my answer, a writer, is boring. So damn boring.

You see, my biggest problem with playtime isn’t that I cannot do it, it is that I once could — and I once could do it so, so well.
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However, even though I have an “artistic” profession, I find make-believe difficult. I struggle to play pretend, and it actually angers me. Playtime pisses me off because I hate feeling stupid. Because I cannot stand the idea that I am so serious I cannot cut loose: I cannot stand the idea that I am so serious my creativity is stifled. Because I detest being Donald Duck or Dora, or that damn backpack.

Because I detest being myself.

You see, my biggest problem with playtime isn’t that I cannot do it, it is that I once could — and I once could do it so, so well. I used to play dress up and put on plays. I used to make up songs about the weather, my parents, and our family pets. I used to write my own comics, and I once had two imaginary friends, Flopsy and Mopsy, who lived on the ceiling (and floated not only through rooms but through walls). But then life happened. Adulthood happened, and that part of me died. This free-spirited, gravity-defying architect put her LEGOs — and uninhibited imagination — away for good.

And it sucks. To realize that your imagination is “dead” is a real kick to the crotch.

However, I am slowly realizing that growing up is OK. I am slowly realizing that my feelings and struggles are normal and OK. (I know some parents are great with imaginative play, but I’m not one of them — and I’m willing to bet I’m not alone.) And I am slowly realizing that I am not a “bad mom” because I don’t “get it.” Because I do not enjoy playtime.

Do I wish I could see the world through her eyes? Yes. A million times yes. Unfortunately, I took off those “goggles” years ago — you know, the rose-tinted ones which skewed the world and added a little sparkle. But that doesn’t mean I’ll stop playing with her. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop picking up “baby” sticks and rocks for Metroid’s bed or roaring through the park. It just means I’ll let myself off the hook a bit.

I’ll let myself fall a bit.

I’ll stop being so worried about being imperfect or failing and, instead, I’ll focus on the moment.

I’ll focus on the memories we are making.

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Article Posted 3 years Ago
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