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August 06, 2008

I Got No Game

Stockxpertcom_id105469_size2games "Hello.  My name is Anna and I'm a gameophobic.  It's been six weeks since my last Yahtzee."

There.  I said it.  I hate games.  No, that's not quite right.  I am game-averse.  I am not, as they say, an enthusiast.

When did I acquire this affliction?  Ironically, it was just about the time I started having children...children who would love nothing more than to (you guessed it) play games.  Of course, the birth of my first child also heralded the dawn of the Era of Not Having Enough Time to Get Anything Done.  This was in sharp contrast to the yawning expanses of shapeless free time (commonly referred to as "after lunch") that I enjoyed when I worked full-time in the corporate world.  Before I became a mom, it seemed I had infinite space available in my days for bill-paying, laundry-conquering, lovelorn friend-consoling and floor-waxing.  (Okay, I made up that last bit.  My floors looked like crap even before I became a mom.)

Once baby arrived, though, time lost all reliability.  Our household went from civilian time ("It's 7:00 a.m., Honey, are you ready for coffee?") to military ("We are at oh-seven-hundred!  Be advised that you are on diaper patrol for the next four minutes while I shower so movemovemove!") 

The challenge became getting everything done in spite of my newly free-form schedule in which bubbles of time could disappear and reappear without warning.  Baby's asleep?  Great, I can get those birth announcements addressed and mailed, fold a load of laundry and, if I'm lucky, catch up on a couple of emails.

Then, when our second child came along 17 months later, the "game" of finding time to do the things I refused to give up (like writing) became even more challenging - a.k.a. the "lightning elimination round."  I lived for the perfect storm:  simultaneous naps.  These blocks of time would open up occasionally and I would leap around the house like an ecstatic terrier, giddy with the sudden freedom of choice.  Pay bills or organize my daughter's closet?  Write in my journal or read through the health insurance information that's been sitting on the corner of my desk for a month?  This time must be put to constructive use!

This is a familiar scenario for anyone who has children, I'm sure, but it hit this Type A, uptight mom particularly hard.  In fact, I'm concerned that my condition may be terminal because I can't seem to get out of the new-baby mindset even though my children are now 8 and 9 years old.  I'm still zipping around the house, snatching opportunities to do chores here and there, or sitting at my computer writing blog posts or working on a novel with one eye on the clock.

I.  Just.  Can't.  Stop.

Thank goodness my husband loves to play games.  One of his favorite things to do at the end of his work day is to sit in the backyard and continue the ongoing Battleship grudge match that he and our daughter have had for months now, or squeeze into the chair next to our son and play a round of the new driving game he just installed on the computer.  He's able to compartmentalize everything else and lose himself in games.  I admire that and the kids love it, but I know what's coming next:  "Hey, Mom!  Let's all play Clue!"

It's no mystery to me how that will turn out:  the mommy in the conservatory did herself in with the pipe wrench.

The idea of sitting still to play a game is almost excruciating to me when my to-do list is sitting on my desk, sending out little radioactive waves that my mind receives anywhere within a 50-mile radius.

I have issues.  I know this.  I want to get better, I really do.

My mom can assume a variety of entertaining identities with our children for hours on end:  a student in an imaginary classroom, Mace Windu in Lego Star Wars, a fierce opponent in a Pokemon card throw-down, Barbie's sassy hairdresser.  Mom can play.  How does she do it?  I have a theory that there's a recessive grandparent gene that becomes dominant the moment the first macaroni-encrusted picture frame changes hands, then (BAM!) a previously masked marathon game-playing capacity is unleashed.

Or maybe she knows something I don't.

Lately I have sensed a kind of creeping unease when, for the millionth time, I have put off a request to stop working on something or other and sit down to play.  What if they stop asking?  Obviously, at some age, they will.  And, life being the way it is, that will be exactly when I get a hankering to settle in for a nice, long game of Parcheesi.  I have a fretful, sweaty vision of myself on the phone with my son, cajoling him to log onto his Club Penguin account so we can play a game of Astro Barrier and win him a new sofa for his igloo.

"Mom," he says in my vision, "I'm 25.  I gotta go."

This is an original post to LA Moms Blog.

Anna Lefler is a novelist and standup comic who lives with her family in Santa Monica.  Her personal blog is parked over yonder at Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder.

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