catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 14 :: 2011.07.22 — 2011.09.01


Learning to play a Dad’s way

“You’re no fun, Mum,” she said baldly.  “You never play with us.” 

“All right,” I sighed reluctantly, “come on.  Let’s play then.”

We went into her bedroom and sat down on the floor. 

“I’ve got a great game,” I suggested.  “Why don’t we get all the toys out and see if there’s some we haven’t played with in a while?”

It’s sad to say that all the time I was pretending to play, in reality I was herding my girls into sorting out their boxes of toys, mentally reviewing the other jobs that needed doing round the house, clock watching until I could say I had done my “duty.” 

My lack of imagination when it comes to children’s toys, my excessive boredom, would do justice to a sullen teenager. 

I’ve always thought of myself as fun-loving, a wild card, not afraid to have a laugh and play the fool but recently I’ve been wondering when exactly I did I lose the ability to play? When did being on time begin to matter? When did I start caring more about the responsibilities of housework, feeding the family, washing the clothes than I did about enjoying the moment?

As I write this, we are on a family holiday.  The accusation is that I spend far too much time on the computer and away from them.  I, on the other hand, love having time to think, the space to write, to put down my thoughts on paper, to connect with other people — things that at home are always hampered by duties and demands for food or attention. 

Am I connecting too much with others and not with my own family? Are we as a society focusing on social networks but neglecting time for the family? How can we recapture the spirit of play?

I watch my husband play with the children.  When he is with them, he teases them, he admires them, he chases them, he cuddles them, he allows them to dress him up, he reads stories to them.  He is happy simply to sit there and put aside the train he should be catching to work, happy to make a mess and revel in it not noticing the work it represents, happy to spoil them and give them everything they demand. 

When he comes home from work, all three girls run to the door. Daddy’s home! They shout, they dance.  Our 18-month-old shrieks and runs in a tight circle, her arms raised.  They launch themselves on him with exuberance, joy, gladness. If he sits down to watch cartoons or a movie with them, they delight in hanging off him.  One on his lap, one on his shoulders and one cuddled under an arm.

I am learning from his example, trying to find a balance between keeping a smooth-running, semi-clean house and remembering that relationships are more important than time, more important than deadlines, more important than keeping a tidy house — and that childhood, once spent, can never be regained.

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