I have a confession to make: I loathe playing with my preschooler.
I can’t be the only who feels that way, can I? She’s 3.5, and so adorable, and I love her more than I love Gouda (which, just so we’re clear, is a lot.) I love talking to her, and having fun adventures with her—the kind where we leave the house and do things that are active and new every single time.
But the act of simply sitting down and playing with her? Of re-enacting the same tea party we’ve had approximately 2,586 times in the last year, or of allowing her to “trap” me in the closet for the 100th time today (as she repeatedly opens and slams the door and I wait for fingers to be crushed)?
It makes me want to crawl out of my skin.
Seriously, I’d rather have back-to-back appointments with the dentist and the gynecologist than spend that same amount of time “playing” with my favorite person in the whole wide world.
(Just throwing in that subtle reminder that I do, in fact, love my child very much … I swear.)
Unfortunately, there are only so many adventures I can plan for us. And inevitably, the point comes every single weekend where my girl looks up at me with her big brown eyes and says, “Mommy, wanna play with me?!” And of course I say yes, because I’m not a freaking monster.
But I may or may not set a timer on that playtime (I’m admitting to no such thing). And it’s possible that as I will the seconds to go by faster, these are thoughts I have:
OK. Let’s do this. I’m ready. Bring on the … wait, puzzles?
Nooooo! Why are we starting with puzzles? It’s like a special kind of torture.
Corners and edges first, kid! There’s a right and a wrong way to do these things! You can’t start with the middle—you’re doing it wrong!
OK … keep your mouth shut, Mommy. Let her figure it out. Don’t be that mom who nags.
Sit on your hands. Just sit on your hands. Do not snatch that piece from her.
This. Is. Agony.
Wait a minute … she’s actually figuring this out! Maybe my helpful commentary is working. Look how proud she is! That’s my girl.
Annnnddd … she’s trying to force a piece in place by jumping on it. Fantastic.
Thank you dear, sweet, baby Jesus. She’s on the last piece.
“That’s it, honey. Right there. You’ve got this!”
And … done!
Crap … there’s still 25 minutes on the timer.
OK… what’s next? Tea party? Fabulous—we haven’t done this in at least three hours.
Wait, when did she fill that pot up with water?
No, seriously, when did she do that? How long has that water been in there? Where did it come from? What are the chances she … Oh. My. Hell. She just drank it. What if she got it from the toilet?!?
I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.
“No. That’s OK, baby. Mommy’s not thirsty. How about we dump that water out and just pretend though, sound good?”
OK, the pot is empty. Back to … wait, what is she doing? Oh yeah, how could I have forgotten? She’s got to bring every single stuffed animal she owns over to this party.
All 52 of them.
Whew. Everyone is here. Now we can really start.
“Yes please, I would love a cupcake!”
Wouldn’t be a tea party if she didn’t try to serve me 20 cupcakes.
I wonder how that timer is looking?
The dishwasher needs to be emptied. And the laundry needs to be done. Maybe I can put her in front of a movie after I get through this? Then maybe I could even make us something other than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner.
“What was that, honey? Oh, yes please! I would love some more tea.”
That pot is still dripping toilet water.
My nails look awful. Why don’t I do my nails anymore?
Come to think of it, when was the last time I showered? I used to be so put-together. What the hell happened to me?
Oh yeah … she happened to me.
Dangit if she isn’t adorable, though. Just look at her playing in her kitchen! She’s such a good little hostess!
Wait … is she serving each stuffed animal individually?
If I don’t get out of this tea party right this instant, I’m going to scream.
“Hey, honey! How about we get the Play-Doh out?”
At least that’s something creative.
“Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.”
I hate that song.
OK just eight minutes left on the timer. I can do this.
“What do you think we should make, sweetheart?”
A slide. Of course. I should have guessed. She always wants me to make her a slide and little people to go down the slide. Every. Single. Time.
At least I’m getting really good at this.
Wait ... what is she doing over there? Is she … no. Why is she smashing all the colors together?! Gah!
Kids are the worst.
“Here, honey. Here’s your slide.”
I need this hell to be over.
Oh good, it looks like plenty of Play-Doh has made it to the ground. Super excited about that.
This is why I need to adopt another kid … she needs someone else to play with.
That’s a legitimate reason to add to your family, right? So that you don’t have to be the one to play with your kid all the time anymore?
I am a terrible mother.
Oh for the love of … why would you ask me to make you a slide if you’re just going to smash it?!
Did she just say the ‘f’ word? I seriously think she did. Where the fuck did she learn the ‘f’ word?!?
“Honey, what did you just…”
Wait … is that? YES! The timer!
“Playtime’s over, sweet girl. Go pick out a movie!”
Mommy’s just going to pour herself a glass of wine…
Photograph by Leah Campbell