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Too Tired To Play

Anthony Gordon Asks:

My wife and I have a 2 (soon to be 3) year old boy. He is an only child for the most part and we have no plans for any more. He goes to daycare 5 days per week however when we get home after picking him up, he wants to play with us as though we are his playmates from daycare. We work long hours and are usually exhausted when we get home. We bought him a dog to play with and that has helped some. We force ourselves to have some play time and read to him nightly before bed. Any suggestions?

Mother Wit says:

Dear Anthony,

It’s hard to come home after a long day of work and then have to spend more time and energy playing with the little ones. Lord knows, there were plenty of days when I was just too tired to get on the floor and play horsie or sit on one of those little chairs and pour another pretend pot of tea.

When my children were young I swear sometimes I wished they would magically disappear. Not forever – but just for a little while so I could read the paper, watch the news, chat on the phone or just unwind for an hour or two after work.

Some of my friends believe that they have to constantly entertain their children every waking moment of the day, but this mentality doesn’t leave time for relaxation and it can create stress. Your job as a parent is to be a role model, not a playmate.

So I learned to fill my children’s “play cups” half way and taught them how to fill it the rest of the way themselves. Sometimes I would sit down with them for a specific amount of time just to get them into an activity – like puzzles or some kind of arts or crafts – that they could continue without me. And then, I would slowly remove myself. When I would give them a little of my time then I found they were more receptive to doing things by themselves.

My oldest son was a little more of a challenge because he was my little shadow. So I would plan little activities or projects that he could do in close proximity to me and let him know the he had to play quietly while mama was doing her thing.

The other thing that worked was allowing for what I call “creative chaos.” As I took a “Mommy Break” I’d create some Kid Space where they could make a mess to keep them preoccupied for long periods of time. One time I lined their room with an old shower curtain and let them finger paint. If you look around the house you can find all kinds of old things that will keep them stimulated. I found that this approach taught my children boundaries, how to self soothe, build focus, and to be independent. Try this approach and see what happens.

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