Day 11: Playing While Doing
For the past several months I’ve been thinking about the question, “Do you play with your kids?” and for some reason it has me unsettled. I’ve been rolling this question around in my thoughts, marinating in different ideas of what play means to me and by extension, what it means to my kids. My gut response is to say a resounding, “Yes!” but then a little voice nips at me from the sidelines, whispering, “Do you?”
Rewind to 2008, the year that my best friend’s first was born and I would sit at my desk at my full-time job and daydream about being home with a baby. We’d play peek-a-boo games, I’d act out scenes with animal puppets, blow bubbles and we’d blissfully watch them pop in the sun for hours on end. Little did I know that my daydreams would become more of an obsession and a 3.5 year detour into fertility hell. After several miscarriages and oceans of tears, we finally found ourselves pregnant. With twins. The initial excitement and disbelief quickly turned into terror that something was going to happen to the two little babes that were finally nestled in my belly and a worry weaved it’s way into the fiber of my being that I’ve never been able to shake.
Call it a mother’s intuition or maybe it was precisely because of this worry, but our twins were born after only 29 weeks. What followed was nearly three months spent in the NICU and more worry than any new mother should ever have to endure. Play was the furthest thing from my mind, we just needed to survive. Monitors, wires, alarms, 24-hour care from some of the most experienced medical professionals in the country and feeding tubes had replaced the daydreams of long walks to look at the way the trees rustle in the wind and late night lullabies between feeds.
When we were finally able to take our babies home after 77 excruciating days in the NICU, any idea of play was replaced with doing. Taking care of any baby is an assembly line of doing: feeding, burping, swaddling, rocking, laundry (oh, the laundry!) but preemie twins that still only weighed 5lbs after almost 3 months? There was definitely a lot to do. I became pretty efficient at the doing and was dealing with a fear and worry that rocked me to my core, so instead of finally relaxing and reveling in the fact that we had survived and we had not one but two beautiful new babes, I just kept doing. I pumped, I sterilized, I rocked and I walked, boy did I walk. My local coffee shop was a 2-mile round trip at the time and I would sometimes go as many as 4 times a day. I needed to keep busy. I needed to do.
Now that we have relocated to New York City the amount of things to do is off the charts. No longer is my quest for coffee so far away and I can walk to some of the most culturally impressive institutions in the world. But sitting here writing this has me thinking that I could be more playful, I could focus less on doing and more on playing. I love the time that I get to spend with my kids (most of the time) and I do all sorts of things with them. I consider myself a good mom and I suppose I’m biased but my kids are pretty fun to be with. We travel a lot, explore new neighborhoods, visit museums, go to concerts, playgrounds, classes, restaurants, craft, bake, color, dance, build… but again, we’re doing.
This weekend we were snowed in and I made an effort to play because there simply wasn’t anything to do. We made forts, my husband carried my daughter all around the apartment on a dolphin balloon and we made up stories with our stuffed bears. And we were happy. Of course, the worry that I experienced when the twins were born is still ever-present but as a mom, I don’t think that will ever go away. The constant need to be busy at all times is probably something that is just ingrained into who I am, the parent that I’ve become, but I like the mom that I am when I remember to just play. After the storm had passed we ventured into Central Park and we played. We slid down hills, we dug in the snow, we threw snowballs and just enjoyed each others company and it was one of the best weekends that we’ve had. Free from distractions, free from activities and free from the looming schedule.
Our journey into parenthood has definitely been along a road that was different from the one that I daydreamed but it’s made me the mom that I am today. I love the idea of play and this past weekend has helped me realize that playing is doing. To my kids, our snow days were probably the most productive one they’ve had in recent memory; and in many ways, it was for me too. Turning busy moments into meaningful moments for me and my kids is as simple as using a silly voice or playing a quick game of, “imagine if…” while jumping on the express train to our next adventure.