I really hate playing Barbies with my kids. I do. I really, truly do.
I also really hate playing baby dolls, playing dress up, playing doctor, playing with the toy zoo animals, playing with the train set, the Legos, the building blocks... just about anything. And when it is movie time with my girls, 9 times out of 10, I'm sitting there thinking, "How can I escape Elmo in Grouchland and go to a different room without the girls noticing that I've abandoned them and our happy little family movie afternoon?" I really hate kids movies, too.
Am I a good mom? Yeah, I am. We draw together, we paint together, we read books and play board games (sometimes). We say I love you about ten million times a day and mean it. We bake cookies and brownies and yellow cake with chocolate frosting. At lunchtime we have a make-your-own-pizza bar...
But when it comes to the kid stuff, I'm more than happy to sit out.
I used to feel very guilty about it. I'm a stay-at-home mom for crying out loud. Playing with your kids is kinda in the job description. BUT I don't feel guilty anymore. Why, you ask? Here's the answer: The more I say, "Gracie, sorry but no. I would rather tear my eyeballs from my head and serve them for dinner than play Barbies with you," (slightly dramatized for your reading enjoyment) the more she sighs and then goes over to her little sister and asks, "Annelie, do you want to play Barbies with me?"
To which 2 year old Annelie,thrilled to be included, enthusiastically shouts, "Uh HUH!"
Gracie is even beginning to share her 12 imaginary friends with Annelie, and (while I'm trying hard to be invisible, lest they see me and rope me into playing, too) the two of them are frequently heard shouting out for Harry and Hermione to save them from the trolls.
For the first time in their lives, my kids are playing nicely together. I know that if I step in, if I pull off the invisibility cloak, pull out my imaginary wand and play along, they'll expect me to play every time. They wont look to each other when they want someone to play with, they'll look to me. Me.
I don't want that. I want them to put on their Disney princess dressy-uppy clothes with matching shoes and play dress-up for hours with each other. I want them to build elaborate villages with their train set, building blocks, and farm animals and play all afternoon. I want them to tell each other secrets, share each others baby dolls, have tea parties with all of their stuffed animals... And, as they grow up, I want them to have scores of happy memories of playing with their sister. To have a bond and know that they will always have each other.
They know I'm going to be there for them. That goes without saying. I don't need to sit down on the floor with Rocket Scientist Barbie and say, in a high pitched voice, "Why hello Ken. Would you like to go shopping at the mall with me?" while wearing a princess crown, in order for them to feel a connection with me.
But you know what siblings are like. They fight. I don't want my girls to kick and scream and steal each others boyfriends when they are in high school. By forcing them to rely on each other as playmates, I'm instilling a sisterly closeness that they'll have forever. I'm fostering a strong sisterly relationship.
It's not neglect, it's building a better bond between sisters. Really.