My three-year-old son is a total video game junky. Ahhh…every mother’s dream. Whenever I force him to turn off the game console and come back to join me in the real world, he recruits me to play his second favorite game: He pretends that he is Mario and I am Happy Nap and we act out various races and competitions from the game all throughout the house.
During one rousing bout of “Flag Fracas,” Happy Nap decided to take a quit intermission to remake the bed after it had been destroyed by our leaping efforts to capture the imaginary flag in the bed sand. Mario was not pleased. I believe his exact words were “Stop messing around, Happy Nap, and get back to the game!”
At that point, Happy Nap promptly turned back into Mommy and told Mario he needed to watch his attitude. (Then I stifled a laugh, because “Mario’s" seriousness was adorable.) Eventually Happy Nap returned to the game, pausing only briefly to reset the rock pillows and river blankets that we scattered across the floor during our races. He never snapped at me again, but the look on his face told me he was tired of all my “messing around.”
The first week playing our new pretend game was entertaining. Look at how creative he is! The second week it was tolerable. At least we are spending quality time together. The third week has driven me bonkers. It’s like when a baby first discovers that you will pick up an object if he drops it, and so he drops it again…and again…and again…and again. Only with this game, I am lying flat on my stomach waiting for the “signal” so I can dart up and dash down the hallway 25 times in a row. It’s almost enough to make me want to turn on the game console again just so I can make a bed in peace.
But I don’t. Mostly because I don’t want to foster my son’s gaming addiction, but also because I know that this playful phase of motherhood is going to pass by way too quickly.
I laugh at the irony of Mario’s instruction to “stop messing around.” I wasn’t messing around. I was cleaning up a mess. To me, that was the “serious business” and all the rest was play. But the more I think about it, the more I have to ask myself who was right. In this match-up of Mario vs. Happy Nap, it would appear that Mario has won yet again.
I literally run around my house ALL DAY picking up the odds and ends of our games and putting them back where I think they should go. I don’t know if I would be considered a clean-freak, but I am definitely a clutter-hater. I like having a neat, presentable house at all times so that if I am “surprised” by a guest, I can feel comfortable letting them into my home (and perhaps earn one of those gold stars I have mentioned before.) The thing is, though, I am never surprised by guests. I have made very few friends here, and certainly not to the point where they would just drop by unexpectedly. So I clean my house to appear perfect for my pretend friends. It’s like this nutty game that I am playing against myself. (And I have to say, I am not sure that I’m winning!)
I love a tidy home. I always will. It’s what brings me peace and allows me to let go and do things like lay stomach-down on the hallway carpet without grossing out. But maybe, just maybe, Mario’s words will resonate with me the next time I choose to interrupt our game to do a quick pick up. Maybe instead of focusing on the house and breaking to play with the kids, I can focus on my kids and break to play with my house.
Because truth be told, I will miss messing around with the mess-makers when they’re gone.