My cousin Curtis (don’t worry he’s not Curtis Curtis) has always been more like a brother to my sister and I and when he became a father at 26 we pretty much stole his son, Skyler, from him to claim him as our own.
For the first two years of Sky’s life I would take the subway in Toronto after my classes finished in University to babysit him and I looked so forward to it each time.
A few years later Sky’s little sister, Jayna, arrived and we fell in love with her too. We spent so much time together as a big extended family that I joked they were my practice children.
For years it was always the four of us, my twin Karen, Skyler, Jayna and myself.
The kids even had a special name for us too “The Backups” because we were called on so often to be back up babysitters.
When the kids were little we would stay at my aunt’s place and I have strong memories of hearing their little feet come up to the bedroom door to wake my sister and I up in the mornings.
We would eventually surface and start our day of playing.
We didn’t have tablets then or phones so it was old fashioned fun playing actual games.
Outdoor games, indoor games, reading, painting, puzzles, Lego, bay blades. We’d keep ourselves entertained from morning til they went to bed at night. It was a lot of hours of just playing!
I have thought a lot about those years when Skyler and Jayna were kids since my own daughter came along and I think about how much has changed in 20 years. For one thing I am older and have less energy for hours of play.
Another element is Joan has a tablet which is brought out to entertain from time to time. She is only one kid and I am only one person, whereas it was once four people to create days of fun.
The honest truth is I don’t have the same drive to play. This may sound horrible but when I talk about this with other parents they say the same. As adults most of us just don’t want to play as much anymore.
This is a bit sad too I know because playing is so crucial to developing children’s imagination and understanding of relationships. But the reality is I preferred playing much more when I was 22 than I do in my 40’s.
When Joan was really little it was easier as I loved making up games and helping her with early development stages and every time she learned something new my heart would burst. As she has gotten older though my want to make endless slime has come to a standstill.
However. because I’m aware I don’t like playing as much anymore it means I have to be a bit more creative in what we play so it keeps both Joan’s and my interest.
As I know when she is older I will hate to think back on the moments when she asked me to do something with her and I said “in a few minutes”.
Most recently we are playing with LOL dolls but using an amazing geography book Joan has, pretending the dolls are from different countries each time keeps things interesting and fun. Also she is really into STEM and a few weeks ago (mainly with the help of her patient father) we built a mechanical hand.
Another thing we like doing recently is making up little story books, which is so wonderful for creativity.
I really don’t think we should beat ourselves up if we don’t have the hunger to play for hours a day but with a bit of imagination there are so many ways to have fun and to play with our children, to keep everyone involved and at the end of the day it is so worth it to just play!