parent opinion

PARENT OPINION: “Bluey makes me feel bad about my parenting.”

Any parent of a small person not living under a rock (even if they wish there were) would know of Bluey

Set in Brisbane, it is a celebration of family life and is infinitely relatable. It’s the Peppa Pig of Australia which is excellent news because Peppa is obnoxious and annoying.  

The episodes are a diverse and astonishingly accurate portrayal of what it's like raising small children. It's a show that parents have admitted to watching long after the kids have left the room.  

Watch: Why parents and kids are loving ABC Kids' Bluey. Post continues below.

Video via ABC Kids.

To pick a favourite episode might be a bit like picking a favourite child.

‘Army’ celebrates neurodiversity, ‘Baby Race’ is the episode that very nearly made my heart dissolve, and for every mother who enjoys the peace and simplicity of a lone walk, then the episode ‘Beach’ will have special meaning.

But the only bone I have to pick with Bluey - and it’s not Bluey’s fault, by the way - is that the show, in all its relatable brilliance, has made me realise how rubbish I am at playing with my child.

Chilli and Bandit (Bluey and Bingo’s parents) are nailing parenthood and crushing imagination play, and I'm envious of a couple of fictional cartoon dogs.


They’re making me look bad.

Listen to Mamamia's parenting podcast, This Glorious Mess. Post continues below.

I was an excellent parent, albeit a very judgemental one, before I actually had my child. 

Pre-motherhood, I was very uninformed about what kind of parent I would be. Perhaps it was a coping mechanism for the shit time I had trying to fall pregnant, but my way to get through the possibility of not having a child was to be very clear about how I would parent, and this also meant being oblivious to the realities of parenting. 

So when I would hear or read about parents saying that they didn’t like playing with their child I would huff and puff at the indignity of people having children who couldn’t be bothered to play with them. 

A decade or so ago, I recall reading a column in the weekend paper, written by Mia Freedman, where she confessed that she did not like playing with her child. In fact, she would "dread it".

Well, pass me my slice of humble pie.

Let this be an open apology to Mia, and to others, because I thought they didn't know how grateful they should be to have a child to play with in the first instance - and what I know now is, of course they are grateful for their child. 

I am grateful for my child every single day, but nobody said being grateful meant sitting in the dirt and doing the voice of a monster truck talking to another monster truck.


Though I don’t like playing with my child, not all playtime is created equal. So herein is my manifesto on play.

1. Activities. 

To be clear, I love an activity. A museum, mini-golf, a movie, a bike ride. An activity does not qualify as playtime. Activities (mostly) are fun.

2. Full day activities.

Even better. I love spending time with my son, but I’ve long said that I parent better out of the house than inside the house, so give me a full day out - a theme park; the zoo. 

A full day’s activity almost always equates to a decent bedtime routine, unless you’ve driven a long distance to get home from said activity and your child has fallen asleep. Then it’s game over. Literally.

3. Parks.

I can tolerate a park, but the quality of the park is in direct proportion to the existence of a nearby cafe. A park without coffee is less than optimal. I am yet to understand why urban planners don’t include little takeaway coffee nooks in all parks.

Image: Supplied.


4. LEGO.

In theory, playing LEGO should be a leisurely way to spend an afternoon, but what almost always happens is that out of the 5302 pieces strewn all over the table, I will pick up a small grey piece to add to my tiny little house and even though there are 3043 other small grey pieces my son will be tell me that he was just about to use that EXACT piece.

I then have to relinquish said piece and gosh, are we having fun yet?

5. Board games. 

There are board games that require a PhD to read through all of the instructions (Jumanji), there are board games that require an engineering degree to put them together (Mousetrap), and then there's Monopoly. To keep the game moving along I used to let my child win, and I found the easiest way to do this was to forget to pay myself whenever I passed go. 

This was an strategy excellent for my own time management but bad for my son’s resilience, not to mention I'm pretty sure The Barefoot Investor would consider this irresponsible parenting.


6. Imagination play.

Last weekend I spent hours 20 minutes playing Minecraft with my son. This doesn’t mean sitting in front of the TV watching Minecraft, but rather being in the backyard pretending to be a zombie. 

The trouble with this kind of imagination play is that I don’t get to use my imagination but instead I’m constantly berated for using the wrong voice and getting the action wrong. 

He is incredulous when I don’t follow his rules and sighs in disappointment at my efforts. 

In life, I want my child to respectfully push the boundaries and challenge the status quo, I just don’t fancy him doing it on a Sunday afternoon when I’m being deprived of my freedom and forced to do ninja moves.

7. Arts and crafts.

Mostly tolerable, providing there is no glitter, glue, play doh, pom-poms, feathers and tiny bits of felt. And definitely no sole Sharpie lids. Every parents shudders when they see a lid without a Sharpie.

8. Cooking.

Cooking with kids could be defined as an activity, but it is highly controversial and the scale of enjoyment very subjective. 

To participate you need to be fearless. Or you need to be Jamie Oliver.

Image: Supplied.


9. Hide and Seek. 

Played well, there are some very obvious benefits of this game.

There is another game that is quite frankly both genius and enjoyable, and I can’t take any credit for it (I read about it on someone’s Facebook feed.)  

Here’s what you do: You (the parent) lie down on your bed and your child has to sit beside you, and using just one finger, they have to draw a picture - and your job is to guess what they’ve drawn. 

If you're smart (and don’t guess too quickly) this could equate to 30 minutes quality play time with your child, it’s sort of educational, and you get a back tickle for your zero effort. Sheer brilliance.


Now, here is some advice that you won’t read about in any parenting advice column. Pay attention because this is the kind of magic that you won’t see on Bluey

When your child is making their own fun and playing on their own, under no circumstance should you MAKE. EYE CONTACT.

And if all else fails, there's always back-to-back Bluey.

Feature Image: ABC iView.

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