Part of Being a Parent is Being a Kid

Sometimes I wish that I could be a kid again. Sometimes I pretend that I am just my daughters’ big sister, and we do stuff that most parents wouldn’t approve of. I let down my parental wall and join in their activities, regardless of how silly I may look.

One time my daughters, Celest and Lotus, were crabby and tired but bedtime wasn’t for another three or four hours. It was too late to take a nap; they’d never get to sleep at a reasonable time if I let them even have just a 15 minute power nap. I was tired and crabby too, so I didn’t feel like getting into any intense activity that would require lots clean up or materials. I wracked my brain for something fun to do that wouldn’t take much energy.

Then I remembered that I had a big container of brightly colored glass marbles in our craft cabinet, and thus I thought of a simple and child like idea. My kids both have some sensory integration issues, so they love anything that appeals to multiple senses at once. I had the girls come into the kitchen with me and we dumped about a hundred or so marbles into bowls. We rubbed them on our hands and arms. We stood bare foot in the bowls and let the marbles massage our feet. We dumped the marbles in the floor and let them roll all over the linoleum.

The sounds of the marbles falling and rolling were as soothing and entertaining to my kids as the feel of the sleek round curves against their skin. The sight of the glass marbles shining and sparkling with the swirling colors inside was almost hypnotic. After about an hour of stemming and decompressing with the marbles we were all less crabby. Surprisingly, my girls even helped me put the marbles away.

Another time we were all tired and bored on a weekend afternoon. I had another idea that most grownups probably wouldn’t. I decided we should play with shaving cream. I don’t mean a little bit of shaving cream. We used the whole can. Again, we did this in the kitchen because it’s much easier to clean up than a carpeted room. We sprayed it on our feet and hands. We sprayed a bowl full and had little plastic dinosaurs trek through it. We slipped and slid around the kitchen with the musky-scented cream. Again, this was a great sensory activity.

I can imagine my mom wouldn’t have appreciated the idea of us smearing shaving cream all over her kitchen. That’s one of the perks of being an adult, I suppose, having your own kitchen to make a mess in. I realize that not all adult responsibilities are bad.

When we paint or do arts and crafts we get into the project, sometimes literally. Finger paint becomes body paint. Glue and glitter aren’t just pretty on paper; they make great accessories for girls too. Too often I start to get stressed about the mess my kids are making with these activities until I realize that they are just being kids. Then the mom in me takes a back seat to the big kid in me. Squishing paint in your hands and letting it ooze from between your fingers can be quite liberating. As long as it’s washable paint, of course.

We dance around to kids’ music sometimes, like the Wiggles. Try some of the dances on kids’ programs. If there are other adults are around watch to see the kind of looks you get. It’s fun, but when you are viewing it from an adult’s perspective it all just looks silly. You don’t need to know how to dance to have fun dancing. Watch preschoolers dancing, and you’ll see what I mean. That’s why I think I enjoy myself most when I am behaving in the uninhibited fashion of children. Sometimes adult life is stressful because everything is so serious.

By playing with my kids in the way that they play I feel less confined, less formal. I don’t just observe them playing and enjoy it vicariously; I enjoy it first hand by joining in. Of course, I don’t always join in. Playing in the mud is icky to me, and some other activities aren’t my cup of tea either. Those are the times that I settle back and watch. No matter how hard I might try, I am just not a kid any more. Some things grown ups just don’t understand, or so it seems.

Of course there are times when I am happy to be a parent too. When my kids hug me and show affection. When they look to me for comfort and protection. When they do things that make them proud and they want to share them with me.

But I really feel like some of the best times that we bond are the times when I act like kid too. I am not inhibited by how silly I may look or how big a mess I am making. I don’t care whether or not I am being responsible and mature. I am having fun and loving every minute of it. My daughters watch me and get even more into the activity because I am there joining in. We are more than just a mother playing with her daughters. We are friends having fun together.

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