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Playing Super Mario Brothers Is Not Wasting Time

“Mom, let’s see how strong you are at Mario.” My five-year-old waves a Wii remote at me.

playing Mario Brothers with my son

I remember what Scott told me two days ago: “That hour I spent playing Wii with him meant so much, Joy. Even though I’m terrible at it.”

I smile, and close the lid of my laptop. “I’m weak at Super Mario Brothers, buddy.”

“That’s ok, mom. You’ll get stronger. Come play and let’s see how you do.”

I take the remote and sit on the couch next to him. He snuggles in next to me with a contented sigh.

We play for at least forty-five minutes, and I’m not as terrible as I thought. Could be because I’m playing a 5-year-old.


Scott inserts the Back to the Future DVD. Within minutes, all three kids have materialized from hither and yon, curled up on the couch next to me. They ask questions about all the things from the 80s and the 50s. I start writing, and my oldest reads over my shoulder.

Really, mom? Really?”

“What!? I like to write these things, so I remember them!” I grin back.

He shakes his head with his trademark amused half-smile.

I skim what he just read, then ask, “What’s so funny? The part where I say I’m not terrible because I’m playing a five-year-old?”

The half smile bursts wide into a laugh. “Yeah.”

His sister leans over to read too, then giggles. I can’t keep writing, I realize, and close the laptop again. Plenty of time to capture the story later.   


Every time I think about motherhood, I bump into this time thing. It’s so ever-loving time-consuming to teach children all the things. My word. They have to learn how to use their bodies – walk, talk, eat, dress, control their bladders and bowels, sleep, and wake. Then they have to learn social graces like manners, punctuality, cleaning up after themselves.

It’s no wonder I get bored when I spend my days reminding them to put things away after they get them out, asking whether they brushed their teeth and whether their clothes are on the floor or put away, and parlaying truces over wrestling matches gone awry or the custody of a stuffed animal.

I ask whether they really need this or if it’s just a want. Then I ask again because they tried to argue their need for another game or a new accessory or this sugar-filled artificially-colored garbage in the Sponge Bob box.

I say, “You have to do things you don’t want to do every day. Do you really think I want to do all the things I do here?”

Every day. Over and over.

This motherhood thing makes me fight myself constantly. I get bored and want to spice things up, but children do better with consistency, structure, and stability. I want to read and write and explore the world, but my children need to learn to read and write and why they should care about the world.

I tell myself, “You have to do things you don’t want to do every day.”

But the most important part, the part that, when I remind myself to look for it, makes it less boring, less dull, more significant, is truth that my children need more than words from me. They need more than a hug, kiss, and whispered “I love you” when they run out the door to the school bus or when I tuck them in at night. They need me to show “I love you.” Buying things and giving in to their relentless requests might be easy, but it isn’t genuine and it doesn’t have their best interests in mind. I have to give them my time and my focus. I have to close the laptop, set the phone aside, do my work during down time, and listen to their stories, play their games, observe their lessons, and cuddle on the couch even when every cell in my body is screaming about other, better, more productive uses of my time. Maybe I’m not getting the dishes done or Elli’s memoir written, but this time with my children is not wasted. IT IS NOT WASTED. I’m going to say it again, because it’s so easy to believe the lies. SPENDING TIME WITH MY CHILDREN IS GOOD, PRODUCTIVE, AND ESSENTIAL.

This year, I may not get stronger at Super Mario Brothers, but I’m going to play because it’s part of my job. It’s something my son wants me to do with him, and it’s one of the best ways for me to show “I love you.”


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  1. This post is perfectly what I needed to hear right now. Getting off the laptop to cuddle! 🙂

  2. i remember the days of little ones – the repetition. the constant directions. the fights i had to break up. the cleaning up after them. the play station (guitar hero). the monopoly jr. then monopoly regular. (i have cheated at monopoly to LOSE….) my boys are older now – 13 and 17, so these days? if they ask me to do something, ANYTHING with them? i quickly close my book or laptop and jump in. because i see that this ends. breathtaking, this mothering….

    • Kendal that is such an encouragement to me. Mine are 7, 6, 2 and 2 months so my days are very full, but I know it won’t always be like this. xoxo

  3. As a mother of independent young adults now, I believe we may regret many things in the bringing up of our children and reflect on how (with the benefit of hindsight) we might have done things differently. Yet we will never regret those precious moments of taking time out to be with them, paying attention, playing, sharing and simply loving each other.
    Life gets busy and children grow up so fast. Give yourself freedom to be the mother you want to be and to be there for them in the marvel of everyday life. Enjoy them. It goes by so soon! 🙂

  4. Thrilled that you find joy in the relationship you have with your son, Joy!

  5. Love this post!! I’ve commented before, my daughters are 17 and 20, and do I remember those days!! My younger one was such a “player” and always wanted me to play with her. I did allocate some time to household responsibilities and then made it clear to her when I would be available. It took a significant amount of discipline to get into the routine, but once I did, I learned some valuable things about myself. Like I LIKE to dress up Barbies. And I’m so bad at Mario Kart that we all almost wet our pants laughing. Hang in there, Joy, and see what “productive” time you can have with your kids.

  6. Handsfull says:

    Yep – right here in the thick of it with you, Joy. My thing at the moment is trying to watch my tone. How I say things makes such a difference to how it is felt by my kids hearts, and yet I seem to automatically go for the snappy or grumpy when a smile in my voice makes all the difference to how it is received. Learning, learning, learning…

  7. Oh yes, that thing called time :/ I am striving to use it more wisely this year too! I keep repeating Ann Voskamp’s quote “Life is not an emergency. Life is a gift. Just slow.” Blessings for your new time outlook! 🙂

  8. Such simple wisdom here Joy.
    Yes…time….sitting not doing….listening not telling.
    I know all about that internal struggle: to be productive for my satisfaction over being present for their benefit.
    A few years ago, encouraged and by so many other woman to “sell all those pretty things you make to help out with money” I found myself constantly bent over a whirling sewing machine, swearing, in a bad mood, constantly shooing my girls out. I stopped. The measly money I made was not even comparable to what was lost in our home. I only write now when the big girls are at school and the little one is having “quiet time” and at a Barnes and Noble on the weekends(maybe 3x a month) Because you are right: I am not wasting my time when my eyes and my focus are on them. It will matter for eternity with multiplied blessings through the generations we do this.No etsy shop or book deal can compete with that. Once again thanks for your honest wise words.

  9. Heard you on the 9 Thumbs podcast last week. Love your likes, and I love your blog! I don’t have kids yet, but reading about yours makes me excited to have them, especially since I’m probably going to be the one raising them (my wife’s the strong businesswoman type). Looking forward to more in the future!

  10. I really enjoy your blogs. They are inspirational and very inviting! Thanks for sharing!