Being a great mom is SO easy. You just have to play Barbies with your kids all day long. Maybe sometimes take a break to play Candyland. Chores are so unnecessary!!
These were actual thoughts I remember having as a child.
My mom was a good mom, but my idea of a great mom was one who would play with me all day long. I fantasized about a mom who would wake up every day as eager to play the board game Aggravation all day as I was (and yes, the game lives up to its name). As a 7-year-old, I couldn’t wait to be the mom who would revolutionize parenthood with one simple strategy: Play. All. Day.
I didn’t anticipate, however, what would happen to my love for “fun” over the next two decades that would make doing the dishes (in silence) immensely more appealing than playing Barbies with a 5-year-old.
Before I knew it, I found myself desperately wishing for a day spent cleaning my house in peace while making any and every excuse to NOT play with my daughter. I had somehow morphed into the parent I never thought I would become—who doesn’t love and live to play childhood games anymore.
My daughter (much like me at her age) needs constant interaction. Her idea of the perfect day is playing mermaid dolls (where I do all the talking and she tells me I’m not following the storyline only she seems to know) from sun up to sun down. And I (much like my mother at my age) need space.
A few months ago, I found myself dreading 7am like I would a daily root canal because I knew it meant the beginning of another 12-hour struggle for my freedom. My daughter, sensing my avoidance, had become increasingly clingy. And the cycle was spiraling—way down. It felt like she wanted my attention at Every. Single. Waking. Moment. How could I ever appease her? Why even try?
That’s when I came up with The Fun Fifteen.
I really do love my daughter. Desperately. If she would cuddle with me (without wiggling) and let me smell her intoxicating little head all day long, I would be in heaven. If she loved looking through pictures and videos of her and crying as much as I do, we would bond daily. If she loved giving foot rubs as much as I love receiving them . . . (Man, if aging went the other way, I would be the best daughter).
I knew I was missing out on a relationship with this daughter I loved (to the moon and back and back again and even more than that) because of our competing ideas of fun. So I began to wonder, “If I give in and dedicate fifteen minutes of my undivided attention to her every day, doing what she wants to do, would she still be so desperate for my attention?”
I decided to test the theory out the next day.
We made a chart with stock photos of things we liked doing together (that could be done in 15 minutes):
Going on a walk
Building with blocks
Playing board games
Watching TV (when I actually comment on the show and laugh at the appropriate places)
Playing with Play-doh
Cooking or baking
Swimsuit play bath (with mermaid dolls)
I let her pick an activity (play bath it was), and set a timer for fifteen minutes.” And then I played like it was what I’d been waiting for my whole life. When the timer went off, we were both bummed (I expressed more disappointment than I truly felt on the inside). But I told her I couldn’t wait for our next “Fun Fifteen” tomorrow.
It’s only been a few months since the beginning of our Fun Fifteens. Some days I am begging the timer to go off. Other days, I ignore the timer and our Fun Fifteen turns into a Fun Twenty or even Fun Fifty. And my relationship with my daughter has improved immensely. I feel like a good (maybe even great?) mom. Her bedtimes have improved with the promise of special one-on-one time the next day. But most surprisingly, more often than not, when the timer goes off, she asks to keep playing by herself a little longer and I get a Silent Fifteen to myself.
If you are overwhelmed by the amount of attention your kids seem to need, or if having fun with your child feels more like a chore, try implementing your own Fun Fifteen. I think you’d be surprised how making a conscious choice to have fifteen minutes of FUN every day could radically change your relationship.