As most of you know, I work from home, on the computer. To be specific, I make workbooks. It is kind of boring, day in, day out, working with the same material. And I am not the kind of person who easily makes their own schedule. However, thank G-d, I manage (or try to).
Today Shlomo played very nicely all morning. I was mostly just doing housework, because I expected him to want me to play with him. Nope. He was playing right up until I decided that it was getting late, and he needed his nap. So, we cleaned up together. He took a nap. And then I started working.
After his nap, I gave Shlomo lunch, and he went back off to play. Obviously, I went back to work. And then he wanted my attention. I tried working and playing with him, and it didn’t work. He wanted my full attention, and nothing else. Well, what could I do? I certainly wasn’t working effectively. And besides, isn’t this why I chose to work from home? I saved my work and played with him. We had great fun. (Or rather, he had great fun, and I tried my best to do the same.)
He kept going off to play by himself, though I wasn’t allowed to go back to working; I had to watch, be available, and comment on what he was doing. I started thinking: This is quality time, right? How much quality time do kids really need? How many parents are able – or willing – to give it?
I remember reading in a college textbook (actually, maybe it was a research article) that children have given up on time with their parents. The time is too short, too sparse, and only leaves them wanting more. So they take what they can get, and try to find replacements for the rest. In other words, they give up on having their parents available to them. We’re not talking about service here. We’re talking about being available to have a relationship with your child.
Many children have given up on this? How sad. Isn’t it? Playing with your child when they are two turns into helping them sort out friendship problems when they are ten. And that, in turn, becomes communication with teenagers, and helping them, both as teenagers and adults, to survive, emotionally whole, in this world: helping them with jobs, deal with rejections, find a spouse, and deal with everything else that life throws at people.
It’s true that some parents are more comfortable with certain ages. My grandmother, for instance, has a hard time interacting with children from about age four until adulthood. She tries, but it’s hard. Yitzchak loves little kids, to the point where I am jealous of how much fun he has playing with Shlomo. I, personally, like the independent-little-person stage best. Helpful, communicative, opinionated, has mastered the basics of self-care, but still a child. I also like teenagers, for some reason. And I like babies, because they’re cute and cuddly. (At least, I like all babies whose parents I know, and some babies who are strangers.)
But pretend play, and pushing cars around? Not my idea of fun. I do it, and I try to enjoy it, but really? Enough is enough. How many times can I pretend to make this plane fly before I get annoyed? Do I really have to look happy when I do it? And the answer is yes, I do. Because he
wants needs me to play with him, and he wants needs attention. He wants needs to feel that I do not begrudge him this attention. And because I chose to have this child, he deserves to get the attention he needs. I don’t spoil him, or at least, I don’t think I do. But attention is not spoiling. It’s saying that you care. And at the same time, because you care, you can say “no” when it is necessary.
I think the key word here is: trying. Trying, because it’s important to the other person – in this case, your child. Trying, because putting in effort is part of every relationship, and every parent wants a good relationship with their child, for years to come.