The Playroom: In the moment


Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

“You be my mommy cat and you’re in the kitchen cooking dinner and I’ll be your baby cat and we can go through lasers and lava and all that kind of stuff, okay?”


“But we’re magic. WE cats are magic, okay?”


And then my son gets annoyed because I’m focused on fixing dinner and I’m not meowing my way through the lasers and the lava. Disappointed, he takes his astronauts off the counter and leaves.

I have read that the very old and the very young are often united because we middle-aged mommy grown-ups are too busy for them. Too busy with the daily chores of life. Too busy for the old, too busy for the young.

A few years ago a friend told me about something she learned in a parenting lecture called “floor time.” The gist of it is that you should take 20 minutes every day and sit down with your child and do whatever they want.

Whatever they want to play, you play. Twenty minutes, that’s it. Twenty minutes to do nothing but focus 100 percent on a child.

I can’t do it. I’m too busy. We’re too busy. But some times when I feel guilty about all the racing around, I do take the time and do “floor time.” Today, Emma wanted to play with her princess castle.

As I was sitting on the playroom floor next to a pink glittery princess castle and my daughter instructed me on how to “play it,” all I could think about was the laundry. I felt this urge to get up, walk away and go fold the laundry.

The laundry did not have to be folded. There are no guests staying in the guest room, the laundry can stay on the bed and we don’t even really need to fold it at all, or put it away, we can just dig out clean underwear and school uniforms from the pile.

Folding the laundry just wasn’t that important. But it was all I could think about. The laundry was more important to me than being in the moment, more important than spending 20 minutes playing with my daughter and the princess castle.

I think maybe the very old and the very young are also united because they both live in the moment, in the now. Without agendas, chores, aspirations and to-do lists, they are better able to see beauty and to appreciate life.

My Aunt Victoria lived by herself until she was 105. For years, she would call me and I would avoid her calls because I knew she would give me a hard time. I would see her name on caller ID and I wouldn’t pick up the phone. I didn’t want to listen to her.

Eventually, after a few days of calls, I would pick up. She would give me grief for not calling, for not visiting more, and she would ask when I was bringing the children to visit her. I would reluctantly set up a date and drive into the city.

We would have tea parties with all her best china on the table, do shots of peach schnapps at 10 o’clock in the morning and small children would eat stale cookies and drink milk out of china tea cups. Victoria would show me her garden and the peppers she was growing as the children ran around in the back yard.

Aunt Victoria is now in a nursing home. I think that I should have called her more often, but I never did. She wanted me to call, and she wanted me to bring my children to visit her. And now it is, proverbially, too late.

The last time I went to visit her she gave me the china. Yesterday, I drove into the city to box it up and bring it home. I think maybe I should use it to have tea parties with my children.

I can be the mommy cat. We can all sit down on the floor in the playroom with the astronauts, near the lava, the lasers and the princess castle. We can eat stale cookies and drink milk out of china tea cups.

I’ll call it “floor time,” and I only have to give it 20 minutes.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at

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