A 7 year old's feelings about playing, and how I have it all wrong.

I’ve written before about how playing the ispy game in the car brings me the same feelings as balancing on one foot while reading a book. It’s just not easy for me to concentrate solely on finding something that starts with the letter G, at the same time that I’m driving and wanting to drift off into a day dream about hours at the coffee shop reading a book. My day dreams beg for alone time with me, and I want desperately to show up for them.

Yesterday, Sam and I agreed to play another game of ispy with Kennedy on our way home from dinner. We went through something that started with the letter R, something that is the same shape as a circle, and something that is green. We pulled up to the house, and I felt relieved it was over.

“Wait, it’s your turn Mom! You have to go next. Can we please please play when we get inside?” Kennedy begged me.

“Sure, let me put the laundry away and then we’ll play.” I replied. I think she can hear the difference between genuine and fake enthusiasm, but sometimes faking enthusiasm is how I keep from saying “No way, I’d rather poke a fork in my arm pit than mindlessly list off everything that is blue in our living room.” I wondered if Sam noticed how much I sacrificed just to stay in the game. I wondered if anyone else felt that it was a sacrifice to play ispy again. I decided that I’m going to acknowledge other moms more often for playing games with their children.

I balanced in my arms, a big pile of folded clothes that were laying on my half made bed and carried them up the stairs. I hung each shirt and dress on the rod, and I stacked each pair of pants and shorts on the shelves in Kennedy’s closet. I don’t think my husband or my children appreciate the neatness of a closet as much as I do, but it sure makes going to sleep easier for me when the clean clothes are put away.

When I made it to the living room, Kennedy asked “Mom can you read me, on your laptop, what you were working on earlier?”

I remembered that I was writing something about an argument Sam and I had which had something to do with moving a fort in the living room, and I didn’t want to read this to her because she would probably misunderstand the argument, just like I did, and think it was about the fort she built. I said “No, it’s not ready yet; it needs a lot more work; let’s play.”

“I spy, with my little eye, something that is black.” She began, and the three of us continued our investigation of black things, green things and metal things.

“OK Mom, I left you a message on your laptop, will you watch it?” She said, and it was obvious that she wasn’t really interested in what I wrote earlier, but just wanted me to open my laptop. Recently she became curious about my laptop and all of the things it can do. A few weeks ago, I opened it up, and saw that Photo Booth was open. She had taken pictures of herself with different faces using effects like hearts above her hair and birds circling around her head.

“Oh this will be fun; thank you.” I said enthusiastically.

I saw that it was a 3 minute video, and I pushed play. She must have taken this video in the dark because it was a little fuzzy. I felt excited to watch as I saw that she was laying on her stomach, leaning her face and her big eyes close to the camera.

I heard these words coming from the video. Hi Mom, I just wanted to tell you, I love you. OK? I love you and I want you to have my attention. I want you to be with me and not doing laundry and stuff. I mean, you are the best to me. Not anyone else, except Daddy, but still, you are the best. Just please I want you to hang out with me and not do stuff for me. I don’t care, I can do my own things for me. I can do all I can do, for me. This is the only thing I want you to do for me, Mom; hang out with me. All you do is be busy. You be busy all the time. I mean I want you to hang out with me. If I ask you to play, you say in a couple of minutes and it takes like an hour. It doesn’t make sense. I just want you to hang out with me ok?”

What is she talking about, I just played ispy with her? If I don’t do the laundry, who will? She can’t reach inside the washing machine to do it herself. And I’ve heard her beg me to wear dirty clothes to school because they are her favorite jeans. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect her to do the laundry, at least not as often or as well as I do it.

Sam heard that this wasn’t a video about Shopkins or American Girls, but that it was a direct instructional to me, and he said with a little bit of a giggle, “Let me see that.” I turned the laptop so he could watch it with me.

We continued listening to her State of the Kennedy address. “All you do is do stuff for me; you think that’s the best thing you can do. You think. It is actually the best thing you can do ever, but still. Hanging out with me is way better than that. I want you to hang out with me, ok? I really want you to hang out with me ok? I do. And if you’re too busy doing stuff for me, ok. I’ll hang out with Daddy. I really want you to do it with me, OK? I just want you to hang out with me and not do stuff, ok? I don’t want you to do laundry or I don’t want you to do the dishes. I just want you to hang out with me. “

I listened intently, and focused on her remarkable ability to get my attention. She ended the video with one final request. “OK you are doing too much stuff for me instead of being with me. That’s it. I just wanted to tell you that. Hang out with me.”

I looked at her, and just like in the video, her eyes were sincere. I saw that this was another important moment when I needed to show up for her. I needed to leave my one minute rebuttal behind and not tell her about the importance of clean clothes and dishes and not tell her that I feel like I hang out with her a lot.

“I love you, too Kennedy. Will you be my helper when I do dishes and laundry so we can hang out more? Then after we do our chores, we can play even longer.” I asked.

“YES!” She said with a big smile.

I guess I’m a modern mom; the kind of mom that receives a video reminder from her daughter that sharing our time together, and giving each other our full attention, is more important than anything else.