Don’t forget to play

A couple weeks ago, I was made aware that I am not achieving the perfect life balance quite yet. Between parenting, working, dating and making time for friends, something was always getting left behind. I thought I was doing well at putting parenting at the top of the list. Someone else didn’t see it the same way.

The Boyfriend and I planned a date for a Friday night, when T would be with his dad. But then his dad got sick and couldn’t take him anymore. I got a friend to agree to watch T so we would still be able to go on our date (we’d already bought movie tickets and I didn’t want to take T to such a late movie). When I picked up T from school and told him about the change of plans, he was upset. Really upset. Tears in his eyes. I thought it was because he wasn’t going to be seeing his dad. His next words shocked me:

You are always sending me to other people’s houses.

He was upset because, in his view, I was always sending him to his dad’s, or my dad’s, or a friend’s house. Even though it really wasn’t as often as he made it seem, this was his perception. When I mentioned the Boyfriend and I were going on a date, he was upset because he was not being included in plans.

We worked out a deal. He would go to the friend’s house so the Boyfriend and I could honor our plans, but then I would dedicate all of Saturday to him. It would be our “Play Day”. Because he also felt, as he expressed to me, that even when it was stay-at-home-days (weekends), I was always cleaning house or doing other things while he had to play on his own. So we would have an entire day where we would just play. I would set aside any domestic duties and focus on my number one.

It was a fantastic idea. We started the day with breakfast together, and then we sat in the living room and played board games. Mouse Trap, CandyLand, Hi Ho Cherry Oh, Toy Story, and Froggie Checkers. He won some; I won some. He’s learning to be a better loser these days. And a nicer winner. I was proud to see the change in his behavior. There was no whining, no tantrums.

Next, we went to Target. I needed a refill on a prescription (that really couldn’t wait another day) and I told him he could pick out some new Legos. Then we went to lunch at KFC (his choice) and headed home. At home, he wanted to play with his new Legos. Which he did. By himself. I sat nearby, doing some writing on my laptop, so I could help him when he needed.

Sure, it was supposed to be us playing together. But once I made myself completely available to him, he still desired a little independent play. Interesting how that happens.

I still didn’t do any of my chores. As I wrote and he built a Lego helicopter, we left the TV off and just chatted with each other. I took out my new camera and took a bunch of shots of him playing, learning what it’s settings meant. I could tell he enjoyed my attention, and that I was willing to help when the instructions weren’t clear enough for him.

After the Legos were built and played with, we went for a swim. T threw on his goggles and decided to leave his lifevest at home. I am amazed and proud that he finally got brave enough to try swimming on his own. And he did it! He can swim underwater by himself now.

After swimming we made salad for dinner, watched some Batman: the Brave and the Bold, and then enjoyed cupcakes for dessert. I played with my camera; he played with his Legos. I let him stay up later than usual, we read twice as many books before bed as we normally do, and – yes – he got to sleep in my bed.

It’s true that we used to spend more time as a twosome. Almost all of our weekends consisted of us hanging out at home. I’ve been trying to make more of an effort to get us out of the house, visiting various friends that we weren’t seeing very often. I didn’t realize how much that was affecting T.

It’s just another lesson I’m learning about balancing my life:

Don’t forget to play.

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When I was writing this, I was worried that T was mostly upset that I was going out with the Boyfriend on Friday. Turns out, that really wasn’t the truth. It was a mixture of his upset about not seeing his dad, and the fact that he’d recently spent a week away from me at my dad’s house in California.

On Monday, the Boyfriend came over to make us dinner (after I received the go-ahead from T). T was genuinely excited about him coming over, and was sad to see him leave. He told me that he likes when he comes over.

That was a relief.

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