“Wanna play Barbies with me?” I hear my 8-year-old daughter ask from the other room. “Absolutely, sweetie! I’ll be there as soon as I finish these dishes,” I cheerfully respond, while looking at the quickly emptying sink with a sense of dread. Feigning enthusiasm at the invitation is a piece of cake but sustaining it will be much harder when I’m kneeling in front of Barbie Dreamhouse and throwing another grand party (wedding, pool, birthday, what have you) for her dolls.
Same goes for when my 5-year-old wants me to play trains with him. Building the track? I’m game. Making the trains talk and play their respective parts in an intricate imaginary story? Not so much.
Don’t get me wrong; I love spending time with my kids on memorable outings to the zoo, the park, or more recently, the Brooklyn Cat Cafe, where we picked out an adorable new feline friend to adopt. I can’t wait to hear about their day, talk through the social dramas that crop up in the second grade, color together, and look at the crafts they made at school with pride. And nothing gives me more joy than hearing them interact and play pretend with each other; I genuinely marvel at their minds and love to be a fly on the wall. When I’m asked to play pretend, however, I want to run for the hills.
I’m not proud of this—even writing it inspires that oppressive sense of guilt that I’ve come to understand every mom is familiar with for one reason or another. And like other guilt-ridden moms, when that nagging feeling crops up, I try to repent. I often make silent resolutions to myself after I put them to bed: “Tomorrow I’ll be better at playing with them. Tomorrow I’ll have fun.”