Sunday, October 13, 2013

Wanna Play Trains?

I have a confession to make.  When my oldest asks me if I want to play trains, I feel a complete sense of dread. After three and half years of pushing magnetic trains around and around a track, I have completely run out of ways to make it interesting.  I've added police chases, major freight spills on the track and anything else I can think of to give the game some kind of plot.  Yet my son is perfectly happy lying on his side and pushing the trains around and around the track.  So how have I dealt with this?  Avoidance.  Pure and simple.

I realized it this morning.  I woke up with the boys to give my husband a break and my son immediately asked if we could play trains.  "Sure, bud!  I just need to change your brother's diaper and put away some laundry then we can play," I told him.  "Okay!  Sounds great!" he said.  He waited patiently while I finished my short list.  Then my little one started to get whiney.  This always happens in the morning before he eats and it's a race against the clock to feed him before he enters into a complete meltdown.    I told my oldest I had to get his brother something to eat and that I would be back up to play trains.  But once I got down there, everything else started to happen.  My youngest wouldn't eat cereal out of a cup.  He wanted a bowl with milk.  Then my oldest wanted milk in his cereal, too.  I couldn't bring milk upstairs (milk + carpet = disaster) and so I asked my oldest to come down.  He sighed deeply but then thumped down the stairs.  "But Mommy, when can we play trains?" he asked with a twinge of disappointment in his voice.  "As soon as I get ready for church, I'll come in and play trains with you," I explained.  

I got ready as quickly as I could and we were left with ten minutes to spare. I offered to play trains with them and, just as I was assigned an engine with a decent backstory ("Your train is only a baby but it has to chuff up this hill with LOTS of freight!!") my husband yelled out to them to get their shoes on.  My son's lower lip began to quiver.  "But Mommy...We just started playing trains," he said sadly.

That's when it hit me.  While many of the things I needed to do were legitiment (diapers, laundry, breakfast, etc.) I made a lot of promises I couldn't keep along the way.  I kept putting him off and putting him off until he was finally so upset he was ready to cry.  And this wasn't the first time.  What am I teaching him when I do this?  Am I showing him the playbook on passive aggressiveness?  Am I showing him that Mommy doesn't always follow through?  I think I might be.  So I'm going to try and be more upfront with him.  I'm going to let him know that I won't be able to play in the morning (HECTIC!) but I can at a different time.  And then I have to stick with it even if I would rather do a million other things.  I want him to know he's important and that I am a woman of my word.  Even if it means I have to push around magnet trains mindlessly.

Do you ever avoid playing with your kids?  How can you use it as an opportunity to help them learn about honesty and follow through?

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