The Problem with Play-Doh

I have spent a lot of time lately complaining on Facebook about play-dough.  When my 4 year old received money for her birthday, she opted to buy one of the only things she could afford and didn’t already have.  Play-dough!  “Oh, okay,” I thought to myself, not sure why I hadn’t thought of providing the colorful harmless jars of fun filled child development dough for her myself. 

A few hours into the play-dough, strange visions and feelings started coming back to me in titanic waves.  When I found play-dough in the refrigerator, I sort of laughed a nervous giggle, glad that it wasn’t in the pickle jar.  When she mixed all the colors together, rather than keeping them each clean and separated – I felt anxiety rising in my gut, knowing that soon the tears would come as I tried to explain why it is scientifically impossible to re-separate the now grayish dough into pretty colors again.  When I sat on the couch only to get play-dough embedded into the butt of my jeans, I tried to laugh it off. 

And then, during our usual Saturday morning cleaning ‘party,’ which is anything but, it hit me.  Finding the play-dough in the washing machine (and in the clean laundry), constantly picking it out of the throw rugs, and scraping it from the walls, trim, and crevices of the couch not to mention the cabinets, the soles of all our shoes, AND the drain in the bathroom sink – I realized the problem with play-dough.  ME! 

That very night, as I preheated the oven to cook one of those all in one boxed meals, the smell of baked play-dough permeated the house.  “Oh no, not the oven!”  Oh, yes.  Apparently, my daughter was pretending to ‘bake’ the play-dough cup cake she had made. 

So, I did what every good mother does.  I began collecting the hardened balls of what I consider a mess in a can and began (secretly of course) throwing them away.  I sneaked into the toy box for strays, pretended to play in her doll house just in case she had stored some in Barbie’s bathtub (which she did), and even destroyed her so called play-dough castle that was hardening (and cracking into small bits) from the dresser in her room. 

All of this from someone who used to allow her toddlers to open pudding and play with it on the linoleum floor.  From the same mom who spread shaving cream out on the kitchen table to teach my then 4 year olds their letters.  The same mom who had an entire house filled wall to wall with toys and stimulation that included massive amounts of play-dough kits and tools.  So what happened?  After all, play-dough is harmless enough.  My gosh, I ate the stuff as a child.  (Who didn’t?)

What happened is mama went crazy!  Instead of gaining patience with age, I have lost it, sadly at my daughter’s expense.  It isn’t her fault she is ten years younger than her siblings are.  So, what is so momspirational about that? 

I believe that my being over the mess of play-dough, (however anal, controlling, and silly) suggests that I am happily moving into the next phase of my life.  You know, the one that isn’t about diapers and bottles or hanging the moon in my children’s eyes.  The phase of life – the phase of motherhood – that enables our children to grow up, up and away without feeling as though I am losing my only purpose in life.  And deeper than that, being able to give up play-dough for good – means that I am embracing the future without it and open to the new opportunities of motherhood coming my way.   

Okay, and I admit it – perhaps it also means that I won’t be finding play-dough in my underwear or seeing it in our dog's poop.  And that is a good thing. 


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The Problem with Play-Doh

Stef Daniel is the 40ish year old, experienced (meaning crazy already) mother of count ‘em…4 daughters (yes, she takes prayers) who have taught her nearly E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G she needs to know about raising kids and staying sane. She hails from a small town in Georgia where she lives with her family in a red tin roofed house (with just ONE bathroom mind you) on a farm - with tons of animals of course. One day, due to her sheer aversion to shoes and her immense lov ... More

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