It was a cold Sunday afternoon and I was scurrying to get my share of the housework done so I could play with my son. Waking up on Monday with the realization that I didn’t spend any play time with him makes me feel like a failure as a father. My 8 year old son was so excited that we were going to play Legos. He worked diligently to get his room ready so we could “battle” with our own customized versions of mayhem machines. I completed my final chore, stepped into his room and for the next 45 minutes . . . was completely bored out of my mind.
How can something I want to do so badly seem like such a chore? I wanted to spend some quality time with him but the moment it begins, I feel as though I want it to be over. Maybe you have felt the same? Let’s face it. It’s because we’re men. Long gone are the days of imaginative play. We typically see no value in it. There are no rules. How will we know who wins? How will we know when we’re done? All these questions point towards our task oriented minds. You know you’re supposed to play with them but what does this mean? The following are how I turn play time into fun time for the both of us.
- Set your phone’s timer. There’s nothing that says, “I’d rather be somewhere else” than when you look at your watch which happens when we’re bored. Whether you legitimately have something else you need to do in an hour or to simply keep yourself from checking the clock, setting a timer can help you focus your energy on the task at hand. Tell yourself, “I will play with my child for an hour, at least” and do it. You may end up playing for two.
- Allow him to carry the narrative. As men we are goal oriented and with no clear and definable purpose we see little value in what we are doing. Your child on the other hand is playing and this involves an evolutional of a storyline for what is happening right at the moment. He hasn’t thought it out. He is just playing. This is the essence of what’s going on so listen to him.
- Let him win. The goal is to help him feel good about being with you and losing doesn’t help this.
- Understand that the value is in the end result. You are playing with your child because you want him to know that you care. You are interested in what he’s interested in and you want a hug and a memory because someday your child’s world will not be filled with fantasy but rather with the cares of this world. Cherish his innocence and enjoy it with him.