My Kids Can't Entertain Themselves, And It's Driving Me Bonkers

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
entertain themselves
Aliaksei Smalenski / Shutterstock

I love my kids to bits, but like most parents, I grumble about them plenty. I actually think it’s totally healthy for parents to vent — it prevents us from going crazy. I’ll complain to family and friends with things like, “I just wish I could eat a meal in peace!” or “I simply want to poop alone,” or “Why can’t I freaking get anything done around here?”

Usually the response is: “Oh, I so get that. You’re not alone. It will pass.” But occasionally, someone will say something to me along the lines of, “You should just let them play. Teach them to entertain themselves!” I know it’s not meant to be mean or judgmental. But when people say that to me, I want to respond with: “You just don’t get it!”

Maybe something is wrong with me, or with my kids. Who the hell knows. But my kids do nothing like “entertain themselves” unless you count the hours they spend being entertained by their iPads. And believe me, my kids play all the time, but I can’t just let them at it, and then go do something else — that is, unless I want a my house destroyed or if I feel like making a couple of trips to the ER.

I’ve got two boys, a 3-year-old and a 9-year-old. My 3-year-old can actually play by himself sometimes. I mean, god forbid I tell him to do so, but if left to his own devices and if he’s in the right mood, he can spend maybe 20 or 30 minutes playing superheroes by himself. But if he’s cranky, or if his big brother is around to distract him (butt in), there’s no way.

I get maybe a total of 60 minutes of him playing by himself per week. Yay! Enough time for me to unload the dishwasher. If I happen to pick up the phone to call a friend or get in the shower, the whole thing will go to shit, and he’ll demand my attention right away. But if I stand near him immersed in a sink of dishes, somehow I can get away with it.

My older son, on the other hand, has never been one to play alone. He’s an intense soul, a really smart kid, the wheels in his brain always turning, and he seems to need constant stimulation. He’ll sit down to read a book or play a video game, but if those things aren’t happening, there’s a lot of moaning and groaning. Or he’ll want to talk to me — to talk and talk and talk.

In fact, both of my boys are chatter-mouths. It is never ever quiet around here. I’m so used to both kids blabbing at me 24 hours a day, I almost don’t know what silence is like. If they are ever both out of the house, the silence hits me, and it’s amazing. I will just sit there, close my eyes, and eat it up.

As for the two of them playing together…hahahaha! They love each other, don’t get me wrong. And they actually do play together often. But, boy, do they need a lot of supervision. It’s about five minutes of fun balanced by five minutes of fighting — on repeat.

It’s not that I don’t let them do their thing. I try to step back as much as I can and let them work out their fights alone, let them figure out what to do if they are bored. But that doesn’t mean I can get anything done during these times. That doesn’t mean I’m guaranteed space, freedom, and certainly not silence.

Perhaps my kids require more attention than most. Maybe I’m too afraid of bad shit going down that I haven’t given them enough space to work out their conflicts and strife. But I’m pretty sure they are just normal kids, and that in the early years, most kids require all your attention and can drain your soul right at the tap.

I know for sure that my boys are bright, energetic, engaged souls and they will turn out just fine — amazing, as far as I’m concerned. And as much as they drive me totally out of my mind right now, there will be silence someday, and that silence will be deafening. I’ll miss it terribly.

Still, if I’m being perfectly honest, I do wish my kids would just leave me the hell alone a little more often than they do. I would really like to perform any task around my house in some amount of quiet. I want to walk through my days like a normal human being again, without a couple of hellions suctioned to my skin.

The bottom line is that this too shall pass, and it will all be worth it in the end, but being right in it is damn hard. Seriously, can’t a girl just wipe her butt in peace?

This article was originally published on