Skip to main content

Mom, the Un-Awesome Playmate

"Play with meeee!"

I, like many mothers of young children, hear this approximately 300 times per day. I try to devote as much time as possible to play on the weekends, but playtime during the week is packed into small chunks here and there -- lunchtime or just before bed, most days -- because, let's face it, weekdays are busy with non-play things.

Sweet Boy plays pretty well on his own now, and really he always has. These days he passes the time with trains or cars or his favorite three stuffed animals, Liony the Lion, Ramma Rhino, and Phil (the elephant we brought home from the Philadelphia Zoo this summer). He spends long stretches of time lining up the cars in neat little rows, then crashing them into one other while yelling "Whoa! Whoa!" and laughing like a comic-book villain. Or he builds elaborate train tracks that don't connect so he can run his trains off the edge of the table and marvel at the noises they make as they plummet to the floor. And he loves to make the animals wrestle. (Are you getting the theme here? All boy, all the time.)

His independent play is good for at least two obvious practical reasons: (1) he's an only child (so far), and (2) I work at home so he has to keep himself entertained for long stretches of time. But I recently realized another plus: It's great that he can be happy playing on his own because I'm not so good at make-believe. In fact, I kinda stink! It is really hard work for me to play with cars or trains or "my animals" or even Mr. Potato Head. I have trouble coming up with playful dialogue or kid-friendly story lines, and frankly, I get bored really quickly. How pathetic.

Now I know you might say, well sure, you're a grown-up, Tall Girl, and you've long since grown out of all that imaginative play characteristic of childhood. But I'm not sure that's truly the case. Truth is, I don't know that I was ever good at make-believe. (Which might also be why I haven't yet written a bestselling novel...but we can talk about that another time.)

I'm thinking back about playtime with my brother, who is only 20 months younger than me and was my built-in childhood playmate. I remember "playing guys" with Star Wars action figures and sometimes playing with Hot Wheels or my dollhouse together. Unless Brother was directing me with his usual "now you say this," I was no good. And I got so bored. I could play hide-and-seek or tag or Uno forever. But playing guys was just not my thing.

And apparently it still holds true now with Sweet Boy. I can play Candyland or Memory over and over, I love to color or make Play-Doh critters, and I can spend hours on any playground chasing and being chased, but ask me to "play animals" for five minutes and I start to sweat. I even prefer building giant Lego skyscrapers to talking like a toy elephant. It's the pretending that just throws me!

I wonder if this is a boy/girl thing, or if it's a left brain/right brain thing; my son reminds me a lot of my brother, so it's possible they have similar ways of thinking that might just be opposite mine. Or maybe it's a I've-always-been-an-uptight-Mommy-type thing, which is really quite possible because, well, I have always been an uptight Mommy type.
Or perhaps I just don't think too quickly (scratch improv comedy off my list of possible careers).

Whatever the root of my particular dysfunction might be, I'll continue to work on playing. It's worth it just for the proud little smile Sweet Boy gives me when I have a true make-believe moment.


  1. You have just described me to a T. I cannot do the imaginary play thing, though I know I did a little of it as a child. I am pretty boring at play time and am so grateful for P and H's time at day care with people who are much better at it than I so at least they are not being completed shafted.

  2. I think you're selling yourself short. I think it's a confidence thing. Some little part of you, whether you know it or not, is probably embarrassed about talking to a stuffed elephant or making wooden trains scream and *crash!* and *eeeeeeeerrrhhhh!*

    Just be silly. You're absolutely not boring. And you make me laugh hysterically every time we're together in a Mello-family unit. All the stuff up in that brain of yours is witty. I'm sure Phil and Liony and Ramma and Jodie think so, too.

    Our brother has a wonderful, childlike imagination because he has ensured that he's stayed childlike (in the best way possible). You have also always kind of had to be a mommy-type and excelled at it (in the best way), so don't begrudge that. I've always had to be a little crazy (in the best way) to keep everyone on their toes. :)

    We all have our strengths and our separate character. Strengths in one area often lead to shortcomings in others. C'est la vie.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Grace happens

Today Honey's roommate in room 364 at Maine Medical Center was discharged. Some other day I'll tell you about why Honey is in the hospital again, but this story is about the roommate because it's way more interesting. Let's call him Elton, because all I really know about him is he plays guitar in an Elton John tribute band and he's originally from the very northern part of England, bordering Scotland. (Or as Honey described it, "that place in England where the Roman Empire decided, nope, those Celts are crazy, and put up a wall.")

Elton was in room 364 before Honey arrived, and what struck me immediately, besides his delightful accent and soothing Liam-Neeson-esque voice, was his gentle, good-natured manner. He was going through heck from a botched surgery and compartment syndrome - pain and gore and fear of losing the use of his dominant hand - yet he spoke kindly and softly to every person who came into his room. Every time a nurse walked in, Elton gree…

Boardwalk ghosts

“Imagine this, buddy, in the middle of summer, especially near the Fourth of July. Wall to wall people, just sort of moving in and out of each other. Flashing lights. Loud music. Screams from Morey’s Pier, laughter on the swirly rides. Oh...and the cream, funnel cake, fudge, cheese steaks, pizza, fries...the smells alone would drive you nuts!” 
It’s 5:00 on the evening before his Nana’s funeral, and we’re standing in a windy drizzle on an empty Wildwood boardwalk. My mind has flashed back to the summer of 1991, when I spent a week here with my best friend. Wicked sunburn. Tandem bike adventures. Water slides. Thrill rides. A ground-shaking thunderstorm. Friendship bracelets. College guys taking showers outside. Ice cream and VCR movies every night.

Back in the here-and-now I’m trying to explain to Zippy what this place is like when it’s not October. He’s been to Rehoboth and Ocean City and Old Orchard Beach, but none of those come anywhere close to Wildwood in peak season.…


Zippy and I hiked in the woods the other day, following the icy trails around Evergreen Cemetery. The cold air stung our eyes but the sun shone warm and bright, and it felt great to breathe fresh air. As he skipped and hopped and twirled beside, in front, and around me, I felt peaceful, happy, content. Until I realized the Womens' March is in a few days, I am going, and I don't know what to expect. I've never done anything like this, except for a few years ago at Occupy Philly, which was nothing compared to the numbers they're anticipating this weekend. The Women's March will be a peaceful protest, yes, but 200,000 is an awful lot of people in highly charged city during turbulent times. I felt anxiety creeping into my chest.

"So you know I'm going away this weekend, right? To Washington, D.C. For just two sleeps. Do you know why I'm going?" I asked Zippy.
"Because you don't like Donald Trump and he's going to be the President."