Why playing with our children is so crucial in the long run
When our children are babies and toddlers, it’s hard to imagine them at 18 going off to college someday. You don’t think that something as simple as getting on the floor to play with them will impact them for life. Their cries because their diaper is wet or they’re tired and hungry is all you can you think of alleviating. You consider it a major accomplishment when you can crawl into bed at night and still have an ounce of energy to read.
But it is in these seemingly routine and ordinary days that hearts and destinies are shaped for life. I wish an older mama had told me years ago – because knowing what I know now, I would have done things differently.
One of the key areas, I struggled as a mama with small kids was playing with my little ones. I can still hear the little voice asking,
“Mommy, will you play with me?”
And at that moment, I’d think of all the important things I’d have to do – put dinner on the table, load the laundry, finish an important e-mail and often I’d say,
“Not now, honey. We’ll play later.”
At night as I’d tuck that little one in bed and turn the lights off, I’d vow that tomorrow would be different. I’d tell myself, I’ll take them somewhere fun and buy them ice cream.
I would envy moms who seemed to simply enjoy their kids without a care in the world. But for me another day had come and gone and I hadn’t taken the time play with my little pumpkin and the guilt of it ate away at me.
His mercies are anew every morning
I finally ended in the counselor’s office and there I unpacked the fact that I had very little memories of my own mama playing with me and how at age 8, as a child of immigrant parents I’d entered my parents’ adult world as their translator. I’d stopped playing at 8 and I simply did not know how to play – to do something for no other reason than for the mere pleasure of it.
You may not be as disadvantaged as I was to play with your children – count your blessing. But maybe like me, you struggle with mama guilt and wish you could do better.
Dear mama, even when you fail, especially when you fail, remember that our Heavenly Father will never fail them. He is a faithful Father and His mercies are anew every morning. Maybe like me you have regrets and wish you’d done things differently – take a moment today – right now and forgive yourself. Your Heavenly Father has already forgiven you.
Make a choice – to make a small change and the next time your little one asks you to play – open your arms and pick him/her up and look them in the eye and ask, “What would you like to play?” Set your timer for 15 minutes – this will be your 15 minute break from whatever it is you’re doing and you’re going to invest it in the most valuable treasure God has given you – besides your salvation and hubby. And in that 15 minutes, be all there and just dive into whatever it is your little one wants to play.
Just for today – take that moment to play and at the end of the day, you’ll go to bed knowing today you loved your child and you did what God created you to do. I believe our Heavenly Father delights in us when we are carefree and play with child-like abandon. It’s the enemy of our souls, who would rob us of our joy and fun.
In building this habit of playing with your little ones in 15-minute pockets, you will continually fill up their love tanks. One day when they hit those teen years and they no longer want to play with you, the investment you made in connecting with your little one through play will pay amazing dividends. And when that day arrives when they do go off to college, you will have plenty of memories of connecting with them.
Your job dear mama is to play. So get on the floor or hit the outdoors and have fun!