“I don’t play with my children.”
“It’s not my job to entertain them, this is why I provided them siblings. They can play with each other.”
It is absolutely your choice how to parent your child, so long as it isn’t abusive and neglectful (not playing with them does not count as ‘neglect’, though not playing with them and making them feel guilty for playing with others does).
Perhaps he sees himself as the breadwinner, and that is his role as a dad. Perhaps she sees herself as the caregiver (or the breadwinner), and that is her job. To work to provide for her children, or to maintain the home in which they live (and set up appointments, make dinner, et.c)
Being a parent is, when it comes down to it, mostly about feeding them and providing for them.
That is your job. Nobody else’s. Schools, family, etc may all step in when needed (voluntarily or because they have no choice). But, ask yourself, please, why you wanted to be a parent. Is it just to be their nanny, cook, chauffeur, and personal assistant? Is it just to provide additional useful members of society? It’s true what they say. They’re only young for so long. I glanced through this article, “My Mom Never Played with Me As A Kid,” and it seemed practical, but…a little sad. Because I wouldn’t want any parent to grow up as merely the babysitter, cook, [insert ohter mundane, unpaid role] to their children.
Why should that be what defines motherhood or fatherhood?
Play games with your children.
Especially now, when we’re all- or mostly- at home. Use that extra time, not to do more cleaning or chores or “tasks you just never got around to,” but also just downtime playing games with your kids. Relax with a book, while they play beside you. Maybe read aloud from time to time. Reread the classic fairytales, you might find undiscovered wisdom in them, and the funny bits can be shared with your child.
Kids say the most hilarious things. They can make you laugh like nobody else. They can make you loved, and, one day, they’ll tell you something like, “I like you, because you’re playful and loving.” And a lot of that happens playing games or watching movies with them.
No, you needn’t play with them from sunup to sundown.
You do not have to cave in to all of their demands, because they will always, always ask for more. But they will also be fine if you say no once in a while. The other day I played with the kids. I switched between watching a show with the oldest and playing a computer game with the other two.
I don’t always stay next to them. Sometimes I just play on my phone, around them. Or I pop over to do the laundry. Often I leave the two younger ones to play by themselves. Then join them for fifteen or twenty minutes at a time to joke around and engage with them. They love it– and they do not in the least mind when I wandered off (as long as it’s not for more than fifteen minutes).
Because they always know I’ll come play with them when I have time.
And so even though I feel like I should be working or getting the laundry done or whatever else, I sometimes (okay a lot of the time) play games with my munchkins. I let the chores wait until later. Because otherwise they’ll grow up and they won’t want to play games anymore. Because they’re not used to it.
My mom read to me as a kid. Today, I still want to read with my mom. Because it feels comforting. So, now, I read to the kids. Not because I feel I need to in order to qualify as a “good mom,” but because I love seeing her face light up at the funny bits in Alice in Wonderland.
Playing with your children shouldn’t be a chore. I mean, you do like kids, right?
Being a parent is hard and often unfulfilling. Let yourself relax and have fun with them. Just to illustrate, I remember my grandparents.
So, don’t make it awful. Make it fun for both of you. Board games. Family Movie Nights. Walks to the park. Play catch, perhaps. Whatever it is that you and your kids like to do. Sometimes the games seem uncomprehensible, but it’s not about the rules or goals of the game- it’s about their laughter and the memories you create.
Whatever that means for you. Let them choose the games, but also, feel free to guide them into entertainment that you enjoy, too. Create home videos. Go on walks together to get pie or doughnuts. Introduce them to the classic movies your mother loved. That’s the memories you’ll cherish when they grow older.
You’ve been a good mom or dad. You’ve cut her sandwiches into pretty shapes. You’ve got her to school on time and to the doctor’s. You’ve helped her with her math homework and driven her to soccer practice. Yes, you’ve created your legacy. And you’ve got the basics covered.
So, now? Play with her. Share time with her doing absolutely meaningless, pointless activities (not even educational, just fun)
Let the dishes sit in the sink for a bit, and take a break to plant flowers with your kids outdoors (better yet, have them help you with the dishes, first, than say, “Now it’s time for play!”)
Because parenthood should be fun, as well as work. And it’s totally possible.