“Just have fun with the kids,” says my father.
Just have fun with the kids?!
How the hell do I do that?!
I am a single mom.
So, there is little time to sit back, have fun and enjoy my kids.
I am too busy trying to care for them, keep up our home and work late hours during the night.
Just have fun?!
Can we also throw in the fact that I am over 40 and I’m exhausted?!
My body does not work like a 20-year-old’s.
So, to run and jump and play with my little ones is like asking an 80-year-old to run a marathon!
But let’s really look at this.
Because I do want to have fun with my kids!
And I am sure that you do, too!
1. What Can You Do, Physically?
What can we actually do as single mothers over 40?
I mean, I am not about to climb monkey bars and do cartwheels across the front lawn!
But I also am only 43.
It’s not like I am 90!
So, let’s take a look at what we can, physically, do!
I have health issues, so my list may be more limited than yours.
But I feel that making a list of our abilities is a good start to find a way to have fun with our kids.
For instance, I can sit on a swing.
I can take long walks.
Playing a short game of chase is not out of the question.
I suppose I can jump for a short time on the trampoline.
I can play pretend.
Board games are good because I can sit!
So there is a start!
How about you?
What would your list look like?
What can you physically do given your age and health?
2. What Can You Make Time For?
Let’s make an additional list to our physically fit one.
We are all super busy.
As single parents, there is no doubt that there is barely a moment to breathe!
So how can we make time for our little ones so that we can have some fun with them?
This list may be a little trickier because it may require some schedule adjustments.
I know that I try to spend some time with my kids first thing in the morning.
So we get up a little earlier just so that I can do that.
Trust me, I would love the extra half hour of sleep!
But I want to be with my babies, too, so I set the alarm for a half hour earlier in the morning.
My son works hard on his schoolwork, so I try to make some time after he’s finished to play with him.
It’s hard because the dishes and laundry haunt me!
But I really want that special time with my son, so I tell dishes and laundry to kiss my a** and I will get to them later.
That half hour or twenty minutes with my son means so much to him and to me.
So…screw everything else for now, I guess!
Now, you may only be able to find some time at night before bed, maybe, to play with your child.
Start with an extra 15 minutes in your day and then see what you can drop or change later on to make a little more time.
It truly is a challenge.
I am not going to lie.
But I know how much it means to just have those moments with my children.
So, if something has to change to make that happen, then so be it.
3. What Can You Mentally Handle?
Maybe when I was in my 20’s and 30’s I could handle playing dollies for a long period of time.
But I am much older now and my mind works differently.
I can’t mentally sustain myself to engage in that type of play.
I also cannot handle playing real intense imaginary play.
It is as though I have to have some objects/toys to help me through that.
So, when the kids want to pretend as though we are going through a “portal” and any items that we may need are all imaginary, I just can’t do it.
I actually dread playing something like that.
And I will avoid a game like that at all costs.
But I don’t want to be that way!
So, I accepted the fact that there are just some things that I cannot mentally do.
What to Do?
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Making a list of the games that I can mentally handle to play has made life so much easier!
If we do have to play a “portal” game, I make certain to grab an object or a toy to help me through.
But, most importantly, I suggest games off of my mentally-can-handle-list so that I know that I can truly enjoy what we are going to play.
I can mentally handle playing board games.
And I can do Play-Doh and paints.
I actually enjoy playing Fisher Price Little People and this is something that we have a routine of playing every night before bed.
I’m cool with that.
How about pretend playing police officers?
No, not my cup of tea.
But I can play pretend hospital (because I get to lay on the couch!)
And I can play pretend camping (because, again, I get to lay on the floor to pretend to sleep in the tent!)
So, that is a good starter list!
When the kids run over and say, “Mommy, let’s play!”
Now I can quickly run through my list and suggest two different games on there that I know that I can play.
Then they get to pick which one of the two that they want to do!
4. How Long Can You Play?
I can’t play for very long.
I usually hit my limit after about a half an hour.
It is usually better to give your full attention to your child for a good 15-20 minutes then to play for an hour and start to lose interest.
Recognize your time limit!
If you start to feel uninterested in the play activity, then you can switch it up!
Or you can set a timer to help your child know when you will be done playing.
It helps my kids the best if I set a timer and I let them know how long I will be playing for.
“Mama will play for 20 minutes and then I have to finish the dishes.”
When the timer gets down to about 5 minutes or so, I give them a warning:
“Ok, we have 5 more minutes and then mama has to finish up the dishes.”
Depending on your child’s age, you can do this however you see fit.
Better Play, Better Day!
Taking a real, close look at myself and how I am able to do 3-year-old things at the age of 43 has made a big difference.
I am sure that it can for you, too!
Be honest with yourself.
What can you do, physically, given your age and health?
What can you make time for, given your hectic and crazy schedule?
How about mentally? If you can only handle playing board games, then make peace with that!
And how long can you sustain in play?
The older that we get, the harder it is, sometimes, to do little kid things.
Recognize what you can do and simply go with that.
Don’t make life any harder for yourself – just make it better!
Mama Morgan is a single parent by day and a writer by night! She is raising two, young children with special needs during a global pandemic. She aims to give other parents confidence, hope, and a practical, down-to-earth reading adventure through her own experiences. While Morgan is heavily focused on caring for her little ones, she is also dedicated to helping others and making the world a better place. Mama’s Grilled Cheese is just her delicacy!