It’s Not the Playdoh I Love

The other day, my three-year-old, Spencer, asked if we could get out the Playdoh. In my mind, I was screaming, “NO!  It will end up all over the kitchen, you always mix the colors, you’ll need too much help with the Fun Factory, and I don’t like how it smells.”

As I was about to verbalize these feelings, however, I thought a little deeper. We had a free morning while my older children were at school, Spencer had only experienced Playdoh twice in his life, and we needed some one-on-one time. Out came the bucket of Playdoh and supplies (which I had deliberately hidden in the darkest corner of the garage).

We rolled it flat, pressed out shapes of cats and ice cream cones, made snakes and spaghetti with the Fun Factory, built a blue snowman, and yes, made quite a mess of the kitchen.

















Although my hesitations with the Playdoh were valid, watching the expressions on Spencer’s face helped me to realize something important. It’s absolutely fine if I don’t like Playdoh. The important thing is that I love Spencer.

I’ve always assumed that “other moms” love the sometimes-mundane intricacies of motherhood–chasing toddlers across the swing-y bridge at the park, listening to every single detail about the latest episode of Phineas and Ferb, spending three hours looking through racks of colorful t-shirts while pre-teens deliberate what will look best to their school friends–but as I watched Spencer’s sheer delight at smashing the reds, yellows, and blues into every shade of the spectrum, I came to understand that naturally loving the details is irrelevant. It’s the feelings about our children that matter. They are our top priorities, and we do whatever is necessary to treat them as such.

Maybe everyone else already knows this, but this one idea has drastically reduced my guilt. Whenever I did something for my children out of obligation, I worried that I wasn’t an “authentic” mother. Shouldn’t I love making blanket forts and painting butcher paper with watercolors? Now I know that my authenticity comes in the form of true love.

My daughters, Alia and Grace, have each started a blog, and they need help uploading photos, proof-reading, and publishing their posts. Sometimes I don’t feel like working on another blog, but that’s okay. I don’t do it because I always enjoy it. I do it because I love my girls.

My son Ethan loves Playmobil toys, and the other day, he brought me the little catalog and described (with great enthusiasm) which sets he wants to buy, why he likes them, and how he intends to play with them. In the back of my mind, I thought, “Do I really need to know all of this?” but then I shook myself a bit and remembered that my interest in his Playmobil catalog needs to reflect my interest in him. We sat together for 15 minutes, copying down the stock numbers, checking the prices online, and scheduling a shopping trip when we could go buy a set with the money he’d saved.

My son Spencer has an affinity for shelled nuts–particularly peanuts and pistachios. The problem is that he can’t shell them himself, so I spend lots of time bent over the kitchen counter, releasing his snacks from captivity.  Whenever he says, “Mommy, can I have stash-ee-os?” I cringe a little because I know this means several minutes for me, but then I try to turn it into a relationship-building experience for the two of us. He likes to sort the shells from the nuts, and he likes to sit right next to me, our arms touching, our cheeks occasionally pressed together. That, right there, is comfort.

Someday, I will be sitting at my desk, typing away on my laptop, and the house will be quiet. I won’t hear music playing in my boys’ room. No one will need my help after they use the restroom. The sounds of crashing toy trucks and Diego cartoons will have faded. My daughters won’t be making banana muffins in the kitchen, and they’ll know how to run their own blogs.

I won’t be playing Playdoh or researching Playmobil sets because I don’t naturally gravitate toward those activities, but I will most definitely be looking back at the photos and videos that recorded those moments–and wishing they had lasted just a little bit longer. My family is my top priority.  I do what I do because I love them, and if I never ever develop a love for Playdoh, that is entirely okay.  I have developed a binding, everlasting love for the people who matter most.

QUESTION: What things do you do simply because you love your family?  How do you remember the “why” when you’d rather not do the “what”?

CHALLENGE: The next time your child asks you to do something that doesn’t interest you, carefully consider your priorities and do what you can to create a fun, memorable experience.

*photos by April Perry

This post is sponsored by:

donny osmond home


  1. says

    This essay was perfect timing! My 22 month old son LOVES bubbles, but every time I hear the word “bubboes” out of his mouth I inwardly groan. He hasn’t mastered the act of blowing yet and merely flings the wand around, sending sticky soap EVERY WHERE! During this soap flinging “fun” I repeat to myself: “We’re having fun. That’s what we’re doing. We’re having fun.” I did feel guilty that I really didn’t like bubble time, but this essay has reminded me of the utter joy on his face while he waves his wand around and that time with him is what’s most important. Thank you for making “bubboes” a little bit more wonderful!

    • says

      You are doing great, Elaina. (And I’m with you on the bubbles, too!) Looking back, we’re going to treasure these moments. I’ll think about your “bubbles” next time–my children will thank you. Thanks for your nice comment and for sharing your experience.

    • April Perry says

      Thanks Melanie! And yes–I agree with you 100%. Of course, we still need balance and time to focus on our own interests, but for the time being, I’m good with giving some of that up in order to put my children at the top of my priority list. Thanks for your comment!

  2. says

    My thirteen year old daughter is a talker. And I mean a TALKER. It seems she tells me every minute detail of her whole day. Too frequently lately, I’ve said, “Megan, do I really need to hear about this?” But after reading this article I realize that even if I don’t need to hear every single detail of her day, I love her, and therefore I should listen more.
    Thanks April–as usual–you’ve got some great insight!

    • April Perry says

      Oh, Tiffany, that’s the story of my life! Yesterday I went running with one of my children, and we talked for 15 minutes straight about a computer game I have absolutely zero interest in. I did my best to ask good questions and be a good listener, and it made my child so happy. It’s SO hard sometimes, though. You’re doing great!

  3. says

    Oh the playdoh and bubbles and art projects and getting on the floor and playing princesses (I don’t play pretend very well) and “science experiments” that my 6 year old is so into (but pretty much just makes a mess!) are all things I do (maybe not often enough) for my kids!

    • April Perry says

      Cheryl, I don’t know if any mom can play “often enough” for her children. Mine, at least, would love me to be with them every second of every day. But don’t you feel like even 10 or 20 minutes here and there have a huge impact on the relationship? I spent 20 minutes jumping on the trampoline with my son yesterday, and he was happy playing on his own for more than an hour after that. He just needed to feel loved. Hooray for dressing up like a princess!

  4. jamesmummy says

    This is my first visit to this site and this article really made me smile.. All too often my son will ask to do something that I have zero interest in or I’m too busy thinking about what to cook for dinner and staring at the dirty dishes.. This has reminded me that it doesn’t matter if I love it or not.. I love him and thats what matters! Thank you!

    • April Perry says

      I’m so glad you found The Power of Moms! Thanks so much for your kind comment. Your son is so lucky to have you. Have a wonderful day!

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