So I recommend having fun, because there is nothing better for people in this world than to eat, drink, and enjoy life. That way they will experience some happiness along with all the hard work God gives them under the sun. Ecc 8:15
When I was a little girl, I constantly heard someone telling me to go play. But I didn’t like to play. Play felt strange and unnatural to me. I don’t like silliness, so I never found myself drawn to silly play with other children. Pretend play was fine, but only for a short period of time. I preferred to sit and read or do something productive.
When I had babies, I played with them, but I had to work hard to play. Playing seemed luxurious to me because a never-ending list awaited conquering. Nevertheless, I played. I got in the pool and swam, I ran around soccer fields and kicked, I built tall towers and demolished, I sat on swings and pumped hard.
Then the kids inched older and began playing with each other. I began tackling those to-do lists. They inched a little older still, and playing with them felt silly. Have I mentioned I don’t do silly well?
A couple of summers ago, I sat in a lounge chair watching my boys swim. I looked in the pool bag and caught sight of the book I’d been attempting to read for weeks. For years I’ve packed a book in the beach bag because that is what you do at the beach, you read. Or you did. Before kids. Steve chuckles, “I don’t know why you are packing that. You know you won’t be able to read.”
We’ve always worked out systems so I could catch some beach naps or a little beach reading. On this trip they were old enough that I could actually read while they swam. At the end of the trip, I realized I’d only entered the water maybe two or three times. We’d reached a stage where I could quite possibly watch from the sidelines my children at play all day.
Several times they called out asking me to swim. I’d answer, “No thanks, I’m going to read. You guys are having fun with each other. Keep it up!”
A trend formed. Kids swim, I sit on a chair. I’m perfectly content on that chair. They nag me to jump in. I answer there is no need. On we go. It’s not because I’m insecure in a swimsuit or care what others think. It’s because I simply would rather sit and read than play.
I’ve discounted the importance of play for myself, yet I find myself saying the same things to my children I heard throughout my childhood. GO PLAY. I’ve bought into the idea that my kids need to play, but I’ve outgrown play.
I can be far too serious and think much too much. I am inclined to view life as ‘what needs to get done’ rather than ‘wow, let’s enjoy this life right now.’
I think, plan, and prepare so everyone around me can play while I sit on the sidelines and look on. Not always, but a lot of times.
I’ve failed to see the benefits of play in adulthood. I’ve focused most of my attention on making sure my kids play and enjoy their days.
I’ve come to a new conclusion on play. Play is important no matter our age. In fact, maybe play is even more important for grown ups than it is for kids.
Maybe if we played more, we’d snap less.
Maybe if we played more, we’d grumble less.
Maybe if we played more, we’d let the little things go with ease.
Maybe if we played more, we’d sleep sounder.
Maybe if we played more, we’d laugh harder and linger longer.
Maybe if we played more, we’d listen closer.
Maybe if we played more, we’d love more intensely.
Maybe if we played more, we’d rekindle what’s dwindled.
We are reaching 100 degree temps here in North Carolina. Sitting in a pool chair has become more uncomfortable than doing handstands in the shallow and playing water bomb with the boys.
I set our pool bag and cooler at the table while the boys wasted no time canon balling straight into the pool.
“Mom, you HAVE to get in. PLEASE. It’s sooooo warm.”
I’d already planned to get in the water. I think it’s time I stop sitting on the sidelines. It’s time to enter into the moments again with my kids. Maybe they never outgrow playing with their parents like I’ve been told.
I’m certain they expected another no thank you, and I took great delight in their shocked expressions when I stepped right in.
Andrew came up for air, calling my name as usual. He seems to say my name an average of 3,356 times a day. Spitting water from his mouth, goggles clouded over, he’s calling my name, looking towards the table.
“Hey, Andrew, I’m right here.”
He whipped around to face me. “Mom! I did not know you were in here. You are swimming!”
Jacob watched from a distance. Always my thoughtful and sensitive child, he acted as if this moment were as normal as seeing me preparing dinner. “So mom, wanna play water bomb?”
“Sure, tell me how to play.”
And we played. And I snuck wet kisses from Andrew, who always turns away. And we flipped under water until our lungs felt they would burst. And we splashed. And we laughed. And we raced.
And God brought it all together. My soul needed to play. My kids needed me to play. Play isn’t silly. Play may be the thing that reminds us life is full of joy even on the days and weeks that grief weighs heavy, that life feels its played a dirty hand.
That evening I felt lighter. Conversation with my boys came easy. Time seemed less rushed. My soul stopped racing and instead strolled at a comfortable pace.
Steve came home after the boys were sound asleep. I filled him in on our day. He listened and nodded along, making no big deal of the fact that I swam.
“Can you believe I actually swam with the boys today?”
Wiping toothpaste from his mouth, he set the towel aside. “Yeah, I can.”
As if it were as normal as seeing me prepare dinner.
The big deal to me maybe wasn’t such a big deal to anyone else. Or maybe they were just being kind. Or maybe it was just the soul within me that felt in need of revival through play. Awakened inside.
Maybe play is not so silly after all. Maybe this summer, I’ll play a little harder. Summer is for learning new talents. I’ll learn the talent of play.
It is a happy talent to know how to play. Ralph Waldo Emerson
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