I’m not the best mother. I’ll be first to admit that. When depression or anxiety get the best of me, it’s hard for me to be physically close to anyone, even my kids. I pray daily that my problems aren’t ruining their lives and that they know how much I love them.
That said, one mistake I made with my firstborn, who I raised on my own until she was six, was in not helping her to develop her imagination. I’m sure she had opportunities while I was at work, and I’ve always worked full time so that’s a lot of time, but when we were together, I was her playmate. Tired from working and wanting to read to her and build memories with her, I wasn’t usually game for make-believe. Not that she was ever very into pretend play even without my reluctance. She knew that I’d entertain her. That’s not to say we never played dress-up or with dolls, we did. We also explored parks and spent time painting, dancing and singing… and while she’s often “bored” these days, less than a year ago, she filled a jar with what adults would call rubbish: soda pop caps, rocks, pop can tabs, etc., and called the jar her “treasure” – so maybe I didn’t fail entirely, or maybe she learned to use her imagination despite me… at any rate, with my second child, I’m much more able to stand back and let her do her thing.
There is a lot involved in why parenting my second child is totally different from the early years with my firstborn. First, I’m married to my two-year-old’s father, so she has always had two parents. Also, much of her life, her father has been a stay-at-home dad, so she has been raised mostly at home. Finally, I recognize that she is learning pretty well without the structured play I enforced on her sister at that age; without my interference, she plays with her friends even when they aren’t around (two of her friends’ names, especially, I hear regularly… she has pretend play down to an art and although sometimes it means an even messier-than-usual house, she can entertain herself for quite awhile).
I’m happy to say that whatever I didn’t do to nourish one child’s imagination, both of them yet can see the value in objects of unimportance to adults; for that, I’m thankful. All that glitters is not gold, it’s true, but is there any good reason why our children shouldn’t pretend it is?