Last night after I put Julius to bed I spent a little time playing with Miles. We played cars, or more specifically, little Playmobil people riding around on various vehicles. I operated the man on the bicycle while he had a guy on a scooter and a mommy riding in the bed of a pickup truck. My little guy kept riding up and saying “Hi, friend. What are you doing? I’m riding my bicycle.” And then the guy on the scooter would say “Bye friend!!!” and my guy would say bye and ride away. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
After several minutes of this he dropped the scooter and turned around to give me a huge hug. Like, thank you Mommy for that amazing game of dudes on wheels. That was awesome. And I thought, man, I need to do that more often.
It’s not that playing with your little kids is boring, exactly – it’s strangely HARD sometimes. It requires a stillness of mind that can be so difficult to get into. The games they play are so, so, utterly simple. Another one that Miles loves right now is called “Petting Zoo.” How do you play it? You run around on the deck and open and close the gate and talk about the animals who aren’t there, but mostly it’s running and shouting happily “Petting Zoo!”
Julius also has a game that he’s really into now and it’s where he holds a ball, and I lift him up to the rim of the basketball hoop, and I just hold him there while he giggles and kicks his legs and holds the ball in the net. If I tap the ball through the hoop for him and put him down, clapping madly like NOW THIS IS A REAL GAME, he just grabs the ball and looks at me plaintively, asks, “Eh?” and wants to do it again. Stand there contemplating the basketball hoop.
It’s HARD to do this stuff sometimes because it’s all so… Baby Zen. Can’t you just BE here, mom, enjoying the imaginary Petting Zoo or the way this ball hovers over this hoop? Why do you have to make it into a Pinterest project?
Playing with the kids sometimes feels like doing yoga. I just have to relax into it, and it kind of burns but then it also starts to feel pretty awesome. I chase away the million distracting thoughts racing through my mind and after a while I feel like I’m getting there, figuring out how to just be there. It’s definitely not something I can do all day long, and I don’t have to – my kids are great about entertaining themselves much of the time. But when they want to play with me, I try to show up, and I’m learning how to play cars.