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The balancing act: playmate or referree?

I came across this post called Walking the Line by Sue Coates, better known as The Desperate Housemommy! on a blog called Smart Play: Exploring How Learning and Fun Come Into Play, and I had to share it here. It is a great reminder that although we want our kids to play independently and self-entertain, they do still need us to parent them.

Walking the Line

When I was a new parent…

Specifically, the kind of new parent that read every book on parenting under the sun…

Multiple times over…

I came across the phrase:  “A child’s play is his work.”

I took this to mean that when my then two year-old daughter knocked over the block towers that I had so carefully stacked for her, or my ten month-old son threw his teething toy from his high chair only to have me hand it to him so that he could fling it yet again, I, as their mother, was to remain a portrait of patience, ever mindful that this was how my babies learned about the world around them.

I like to think that I did a pretty good job of that when my children were small.

And now…now that I have blinked and a decade has passed, I sometimes hear myself saying things like:

“The kids are at an ‘easy’ age now…they arrange their own play dates and walk to their friends’ houses by themselves!  Hallelujah!”

“Ten year-olds are self-entertaining…I’m reclaiming some precious ‘me time’ these days!”

“Thank goodness the kids are old enough to set up games and play against each other now…I’d lose it if I had to play Go Fish one more time!”

This is a good thing, yes?

Yes…and no, I think.

For as much as I love me some “me time,” I need to remind myself that my kids are still…well…kids. In their formative years.  In need of guidance and a role model.

Case in point?

My older son takes a twisted delight in squashing the competition to a pulp.

My daughter can trash-talk her way through checkers like no other.

My younger son invariably blows a gasket when he loses a close game of Go Fish.

Read: I’m still on referee play duty.

And so?

I find myself walking a line…a sort of balancing act between giving my children freedom and being there for them as a playmate, guiding hand, and sounding board for the choices that they make while engaged in the business of play.

—————–

So how about you, how do you balance being the playmate and the referree?

 

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