"Be a playful parent. Jump in puddles, play pretend, make every moment count."So says the author of a "learning and loving through messy play" blog. This is the kind of parent I aspire to be. Don't we all? I'm trying hard to enjoy the remaining time I have with Beaver before he starts kindergarten in the fall. I'm kind of dreading sending my baby off to school. Once he goes, my days of mothering little ones are over, and while there are plenty of things to look forward to, I also know that I will miss it. I really want to treasure the next few months.
Today we awoke to a beautiful morning with no schedule. Beaver didn't have school and I had no pressing errands to do. Since Beaver hates going anywhere, I decided, for his sake, to just stay home and enjoy the day playing. We ate a leisurely breakfast of french toast with "honey syrup" (Lyle's golden syrup) - one of Beaver's favorites. He finished before me and went to the living room to play with legos while he waited for me. I joined him when I was done, thinking we could hang out in our pjs for awhile, but Beaver said he wanted to get dressed, so up the stairs we went. As soon as he was dressed, Beaver asked, with a mischievous smile on his face, "Is it lunchtime?" Stinker. I usually let him watch a couple of shows on the TV after lunch, so even though we had just finished breakfast, he was hoping.
"No, it's not lunchtime, you silly!" I told him. "I'm going to take a shower and then we'll play.
"Um, Mommy, can I watch a little TV while you take a shower?"
"No, you can play with your castle or your pirates or your trains. I won't be very long."
So, he spent the 20 minutes while I was getting ready lounging on the chair in my room and sucking his thumb.
Once I was ready for the day, I went to work on my playful parent plan. The aforementioned website had a list of science experiments for kids, so I looked through them to find one that looked interesting. Our first experiment was to put food coloring in milk, and then add dishwashing soap, which sends the food coloring sailing to the edge of the dish, away from the dish soap. Beaver was very excited as I set it up - running back forth from the counter to the computer to look at the steps and make sure I was doing it right. I squirted some dish soap in, and sure enough, the colored milk went shooting and spinning around the edge of the dish. "Okay, Mommy, what do we do next?" Beaver asked. "That's it." I told him. "That was the experiment."
"No, Mommy, what else do we need?" He ran to the computer to check.
"That's all it is. Did you see the colors move? Wasn't that cool?"
He was unimpressed. "Yes, I saw them move, but I want to do something else."
Okay. That didn't go so well. On to the next attempt. Mixing colored water and oil. Since oil and water don't mix, you get these colored blobs in the water. Kids are supposed to think it is awesome. I poured oil in a pie plate and gave Beaver four bowls of colored water and some medicine droppers to squirt the water into the oil. He did so for a few minutes without much comment. Then he said, "I'm getting kind of tired of doing this. Mommy, is it lunchtime now?"
Argh. Okay, maybe he's not so into experiments. How about a craft.
"Do you want to paint?"
"Do you want to color?"
"Do you want to do stickers?"
"Do you want to play in the sandbox?"
"Should we go play legos?"
"Yes, let's play legos."
Good. Legos qualify for playing pretend. That will be making the moment count. That will make me a playful parent. So we go to the living room. Beaver tells me what he wants me to build, so I make an attempt, but however I make anything is wrong. He takes it apart and does it his own way. I try to join in his game of pretending with the lego guys, but everything I say is wrong. After awhile I give up and go to the other room to play the piano. Beaver plays by himself in the living room for awhile, and then comes to the piano.
"Mommy, stop playing the piano. I want to tell you something."
"Yes, what is it?"
"Is it lunchtime yet?"
Maybe kindergarten won't be such a bad thing, after all.