Meeting in the Middle
Making the most of mother daughter time
I am embarrassed to say that I am not great at playing with my daughter. From what I hear from other parents, that’s not uncommon, but it’s still frustrating and it gives me a pretty serious case of mom guilt. When she was a baby, it was easy. All had to do was jingle some keys or give the teddy bear a silly voice. Now things are more complicated. Don’t get me wrong, she has plenty of friends in her classes and around the neighborhood. I am happy to send her outside to play with them whenever possible. I wish that was enough, because I am usually too exhausted to play.
I get nervous when she asks me to play because she tends to get very upset if I am not playing the right way, a.k.a. reading her mind. Now, I know she doesn’t play this way with her friends. I’ve witnessed her engaged in happy wholesome cooperative play with kids her age. This angry micromanagement of play is reserved only for me (and sometimes her father). I beg her to play a board game with me where the rules are clearly defined, do an art project, or read a book. Sometimes we actually have a pretty chill time together if the mood is right.
Tonight after her friends had all gone home, I tried to get her to come with me to pick up our grocery order, but she wanted to play ring toss on the freshly mowed lawn. Ok, I thought, I’ll bite. The groceries can wait. I set up the game and she started screaming and flipping out. Apparently she had some kind of modified version of the game in mind, the rules of which she neglected to share with me.
I can think of a few reasons we were so cranky. First, the fact that neither of us had eaten an actual dinner yet. Second was bad timing. We needed time to eat, pick up the groceries, and return home before bedtime. She often waits until we have to run an errand or right before bedtime to ask me to play. She won’t take no for an answer, Then she gets mad that I am rushing her. It’s a vicious cycle.
Getting out the door tonight was especially hard. We stopped and got something to eat, then picked up our grocery order. Before retiring home, she asked me to take a walk around the fountain. She was referring to a man made lake out in front of this office park. It has a water feature with color changing lights.
We had been there before once during the day. We brought stale bread for the ‘ducks’ (mostly angry Canadian geese). We decided not to go through with it after seeing signs warning us not to feed the wildlife. Besides, feeding the ducks stale bread is not cool anymore. Apparently, bread is very bad for their health. Nowadays they suggest using frozen peas or grapes cut in half to feed our feathered friends.
The real attraction was down in the water. This place has koi the size of canned hams. I guess not everybody obeys the signs! I admit to sneaking a few crumbs to the koi just to watch them swim up with their lips poking out of the water. My daughter and I were very captivated by these funky orange mutants.
That was the place during the day. It was probably a different story after dark. Besides, we now had a trunk full of frozen food. But I thought it might be a nice way for us to end the day given the trouble we had earlier. I figured the food would last another twenty or thirty minutes and what’s a little trespassing when you’ve got a feisty eight year old to entertain.
The weather was a perfect seventy five degrees and the walk around the lake was actually quite lovely. My daughter held my hand. Who knows how much longer that will last. I was a hundred percent certain we were walking through piles of goose poop, but it was worth it. We sat on top of a stone wall to watch the fountain change colors from blue to teal, green, yellow, orange, red, magenta, purple and back again. I like to think of it as ‘low key fireworks.’ Instead of going boom you get the sound of rushing water and you don’t have to crane your neck to look at them. It’s a beautiful thing.
It’s moments like these when I remember to chill out. Sure, I’m stressed. Parenting is hard, but if I can meet my daughter in the middle like this more often, maybe we’ll be okay. Because I was willing to go out on a limb for her and do something that was purely her initiative, she felt validated. She needed that. After the thirty minutes were up and it was time to go, she happily got back into the car without protest. I am going to take it as a win.
If you liked this, here are some other stories I've written about my parenting adventures.
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I was terrible at playing with my kids when they were little but I had two that were close in age, so they had each other. I understand where you are coming from because my oldest didn't have a built in friend at home. Meeting in the middle was the only way to make it work some days. Mom guilt is no fun for sure.
Yes, meeting in the middle is the best thing for every kinda relationship. So glad you and your daughter were able to do that. Congratulations on your Top Story!
A calming reassuring vignette you will hold in your heart forever. Maybe it will help comfort you during those more trying & difficult times. Your daughter sounds like a pistol, lol. A real life Calvin & Hobbes (though maybe without the stuffed tiger).
Love this honest share, Leslie! Parenting is such a challenging journey. Thank you for bringing realness to the table!
aww this is so beautiful
Congratulations, A nice humorous look at parenting.
Congrats on the Top Story.
I felt this. I love that you took that time for you both to just be :) Those are moments you will look back and remember and wish you could catch again. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey. Congratulations on Top Story!
Win-win! My daughter is now 17 but how well I remember those days. Thanks for sharing this slice of your life.
Yeah it's definitely a win. Heartwarming story.
very good and interesting.
Congratulations on your Top Story Friend❗❗❗❗❗😉✨💖🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉🎉✨✨✨
You have written a good short story writing skills are evident. good luck
Nice work here...
This has given me a lot to think about. I have a side hustle I don’t enjoy nearly as much as my work as a full time nanny. I spent the first decade of my son’s life hanging out with him as an excuse to not hang out with adults. Play dates I would force myself to do. Hanging out with the friends of significant others was pure torture. I’ve been like this since college. If I had to pin down why, I’d say adults don’t know how to play… they just kinda come together and complain about the stress of life, and I sit there wishing I was home. Children can teach us. Thanks for sharing this.
A gem of truth about doing one's best to love a child. Thank you!
The joys of motherhood captured so well. And here I thought I was the only one who struggled with the ultimate game of try to satisfy a teenage girl who wants to play, but not really, and read their mind. This sums it all up for me: "This angry micromanagement of play is reserved only for me". Glad I'm not alone. Keep fighting the good fight! Congratulations on Top Story!!!
Loved this insight into motherhood! Your writing style pulled me right into the narrative. Congrats on Top Story!
While I do look forward to having children of my own, I dread the moments when my kids will throw a tantrum/piss me off. I have to remember, they are kids. They can't be expected to shoulder the logic of adults (which can also be quite terrible given the state of our affairs.) But when I read how you patiently met your daughter halfway while giving her agency, I thought "that is a damn good teaching moment." I'll keep your lesson with me 🤗
Honest and insightful, congratulations on your Top Story!
A wonderful read. Congratulations on Top Story!
Congratulations on your top story!♥️🎉♥️🎉
Congratulations on your wonderful Top Story