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December 19, 2013

Hate to play

What happens when parents don't like to play with their children?

NEW YORK (AP) — Silvana Clark spent 10 years as a parks and recreation supervisor for the city of Bellingham, Wash., yet when it came time to raise children, there were certain things she just didn't love to play.

"When we played Monopoly we were the worst. We actually applauded each other if you could steal money out of the bank without the other person knowing it," she recalled. "We would say to our daughter, 'You stole $100. That was so good. Just don't do that with your friends.'"

When the younger of her two now-grown daughters was about 8, mom realized she hadn't experienced the scent of fresh-baked cookies filling their house.

"I just don't like to bake cookies, so I took a pot of water and I put cinnamon and vanilla in it and I boiled it," Clark said. "She came home from school and she goes, 'Wow, what's that smell? That smells so good.' And I said, 'Well if I were baking cookies, that's what it would smell like.'"

But there were countless other things Clark and her husband enjoyed, like making homemade Play-Doh, in mom's case, or pushing the girls on a rope swing that straddled a pond, in dad's. The couple lived guilt-free about the rest, believing their kids had plenty of quality time with their parents.

When it comes to "play," parents should not feel honor-bound to participate in exactly what their kids want to do, said Clark, who now lives in Seattle and has written a dozen primarily family-focused books.

Like it or not, the bigger question, she said, is whether parents have forgotten how to play altogether in these stressed-out, overbooked times, when dropping kids off at classes or other structured activities prevails, along with loads of time-eating homework.

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