I Hate Playing With My Children



Six little words that strike fear into your heart.

Six little words that can bring you to your knees, take you down to the ground, break your back, and muddle your mind.

‘Mum, will you play with me?’

Curly Mop, newly four, had just started kindergarten, and we were suffering through a slew of half-days.

I had picked her up at noon and we now had three hours before we had to return to collect the Bombshell. After a sandwich, she peered up at me through her lashes and uttered those six words.

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Some of you will hate me and call me a bad mother, but I’m just being honest when I say I cringe when I hear those words. I hate playing with my children. Give me a Barbie doll and I will dress it and undress it happily for hours. Give me a book and I will read it to whomever is listening. Give me some Legos and I will build you something amazing. Give me a board game and I’m happy to roll the dice. But don’t ask me to ‘play’ because there is nothing fun about playing.

‘Pretend it’s the circus now, but I’m not a clown. Pretend I’m a butterfly. Ok, Mum?’ said the Mop.

‘Ok,’ I replied.

‘You have to say “here comes the butterfly,”’ she told me.

‘Ok,’ I said enthusiastically. ‘You’re a butterfly. I love your sparkly wings. Can you teach me how to fly?’

‘No Mum, you don’t say that. You can only say “here comes the butterfly.” Okay?’ she said crossly.

‘Ok. Sorry. Here comes the butterfly,’ I said, chastised.

‘I’m not ready yet, Mum. You can’t say it yet.’ She dashed into the next room and I heard the contents of the dress-up box being emptied onto the floor. ‘I’m ready,’ she called.

‘Here comes the butterfly,’ I called. Out she danced, wearing some wings. She did a whirl and promptly went back into the playroom.

‘Ok, now pretend this is a show, and I’m a Barbie bride girl, and this is my wedding.’

‘Ok,’ I replied.

‘You have to say “here comes Barbie bride girl”’ she told me.

‘Ok,’ I said. ‘Here comes Barbie bride girl.’

‘I’m not ready yet, Mum. You can’t say it yet.’

I was beginning to detect a theme.

‘Playing’ with my daughter basically consists of her telling me to ‘pretend’ something. We don’t actually get to do whatever she is pretending, it’s strictly a verbal thing. Pretend I’m a mermaid. Pretend this is my home. Pretend you’re a shark. But I don’t get to BE a shark. I just have to SAY I’m a shark.

So I find myself doing the most horrendous things to get out of ‘playing.’

I need to go to the toilet. I need to make a cup of coffee. Is that the phone ringing? I think I hear the mailman. And the worst: I’m just going to check my email, which is just slightly better than ‘would you like to watch TV instead?’

I know that it won’t be long before all my girls are too old to want to play with me anymore. I am sure that I will feel bad that I didn’t play with them more when they were little. I feel bad about lots of other things, what’s a little more mother guilt piled on top?

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I relish the ‘shows’ the girls put on, where they dance and twirl and sing. I love them because they’re cute but also because I know my place. I am the appreciative audience. I ooh, I ahh, I clap and I take pictures. I am not expected to be involved and that is fine. I will genuinely be sad when the shows finish, when they grow into self-consciousness, and no longer want to be the centre of attention.

But imaginative play where there is no opportunity to use my imagination drives me nutty. Being barked orders by a four year old is no fun, and so I will continue to live in fear of those six little words, ‘Mum, will you play with me?’

Related post: 10 Reasons Not To Play Board Games With Your Kids


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    • Amanda says

      You are not alone. My kids are so dear to me, I teach them, feed them, make sure they bathe, brush teeth, work extra hours around holidays and birthdays, but dammit yall I dont wanna play!

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    • Melissa says

      UGH so glad I am not alone! My 3 year old changes what he wants to play every 15 seconds I can’t keep up, I hate playing with him, it makes me feel awful but gosh its like torture!

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    • Suze says

      LOL, yes, that kind of playing made me grit my teeth, too. My kids are far past that stage now. Here’s what I learned to do: set a time limit – tell my child I could play for about 10 minutes (set the oven timer) then do the task I “needed” to do (“Okay! I can play for 10 minutes, then I have to fold laundry. I’ll set the oven timer. When it goes off, then we have to stop playing and I’ll fold the laundry.”) When the time got closer (of course I was a clock-watcher), I would say, “Oh, two minutes left”. It gave them the play time until they got distracted/bored and then allowed a limit to be set on how long I could play (i.e. be bossed around, LOL). Or, instead of a task I needed to do, I could suggest we play for 10 minutes then go for a walk/play at the sink/go in the backyard/play with Play-Doh – basically anything BUT the playtime! Good luck, Mommies & Daddies! It gets better! :D

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    • Dave Curtis says

      Hahah, oh man. You’re far from isolated here. After a while of hearing ” Dad…Dadddd!!!!! Pretend youre a cat robot but youre really a statue and Im a dog and I poop on you…ok go! NOOOOO!!!!!! thats wrong ! I dont wanna play that now…Pretend you saw a baby in the woods but youre a nice robot monster but Im a mean kid….NO NOT THAT!!!! I wanna do the cat robot….dad!!

      I love him to pieces but that can do your head in after an hour or two.

      Hang in there soldier :)

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    • talilya says

      Yay!!! I’m not such a bad mother after all…my little boy keeps wanting me to “pretend” to change him into a frog and then I have to be a frog too. It’s not good enough to just sit there and say “ribbit” he wants me to get on the floor and hop around too…I don’t want to do it anymore!!!

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  1. Jules says

    I’m so glad someone said this out loud! This is word for word what happens with my 5yo, and has been going on for two years now. I don’t think I can do it anymore!

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  2. Mary says

    It’s a developmental stage, an opportunity for your kiddo to be “in charge” for just a little while… And yes, it’s boring and annoying as hell. lol

    Good luck, Mama. You’re doing a good job. :)

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  3. says

    I’m currently hanging out with my five year old while she takes a bath. “Mommy, pretend you’re the mommy elephant and I’m the baby elephant. Pretend you said ‘ it’s time to take a bath.”
    I erroneously SAID “it’s time to take a bath.”
    That was incorrect.

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