When my youngest daughter enters her rebellious years, she’ll look at me and tell me I didn’t spend enough time playing with her as a child.
I will pull out this column to remind her of these two weeks when she was 5, when all we did was play.
Checkers. Connect Four. Candyland. Video game after video game. Coloring. Crafts. So far I’ve been able to hold off on Fancy Nancy, which is a bit too girly for me. … So far.
Here I thought this might be a relaxing couple of weeks.
She had minor surgery recently, and the doctor told us to keep her home from school for two weeks to avoid the risk of infection. My wife and I looked at our schedules and abandoned our 8 to 5 p.m. lifestyle. We could have someone home with her if my wife worked earlier in the days and I took on some night editing shifts at the paper temporarily.
From the time her sisters get on the bus at 7 a.m. to about 1 p.m. each day, it’s just me and her. I believe the doctor called these two weeks “recovery time.”
I envisioned two weeks of an exhausted child sleeping on the couch, quietly healing. As it turns out, we’re the ones in need of two weeks of recovery.
I realized on her third day home that I essentially was Richard Pryor’s character from “The Toy.” My sole purpose for being in the home was to play with this 5-year-old girl, at least as far as she was concerned.
Any hopes of napping, doing chores around the house or catching up on work before going into the office were quickly shattered the first time she uttered those words, “Will you play with me?”
Literally when I sat down to write this column, she came and asked to play with me. By the time I got to this paragraph, she was back, asking, “Are you done yet?”
My wife isn’t immune to it. She faces the same challenge from the start of her shift until the older girls get home.
She got suckered into playing a video game called “Birthday Bash,” perhaps the most inane series of novelty games ever assembled but a very popular game among our kids. My wife suffered through a virtual birthday party for her 88th birthday, a startling revelation for someone who is 29 and holding (but I can’t say how many years she’s been holding there).
I remember playing a lot when I was a child, but I don’t recall pulling my parents into it. Then again, with six siblings growing up, I wasn’t alone very often, which might explain why I really enjoy a few hours of silence now.
Still, it’s hard to turn down that girl with a sweet smirk when she turns her head to the side and begs to play. I’ve always enjoyed playing with them, when that line between parent and friend blurs a bit. They can see past your disciplinarian role when they have fun with you too.
These days are likely numbered. We already know from our 12-year-old how much less cool it is to hang out with us each day, much less play something with us.
So I’ll keep on playing with her, for as long as she’ll allow me. If you’ll excuse me, I believe I have a game of Uno to play now.