The Right to Play

Social media is abuzz right now with phrases like slowing down, simplifying, and getting back to the basics. Heck, even the homes with the most “likes” are trending towards natural fabrics and neutral hues. Many of my all-time favorite Instagram accounts portray a slow and sacred lifestyle, a lifestyle that I crave. I crave a life lived celebrating beauty everywhere I go, a life where I create beauty with my own two hands. I crave nature and an intimate connection to it. I crave genuine relationships with my kids, and memories that last. (I do not crave several hues of white throughout my home, but that’s another post).

But have you noticed how easy it is to be “adult” in our pursuit of these very worthy things; how easy it is to make all the right choices externally, and miss the actual living of life entirely?

My point is this: you can simplify your wardrobe, throw out all of your unnecessary belongings, and only wear cotton dresses, and still be the kind of person who can’t make eye contact with her kids for an extended period of time. You can simultaneously snap a photo of your family backpacking through a state park, and spend the whole trip sifting through your phone instead of looking and truly seeing what’s around you. You can build a glass palace of curated squares on social media, and hide your misery behind it. Ask me how I know…

I am – if I’m honest – a mom who avoids playing like it’s the plague. I try to be a “yes” mom. My kids will probably even tell you that I’m a fun mom. But I know just how hard I have to wrestle internally to cross the line between navigating motherhood like it’s all-business and mothering like I’m truly alive.

It takes an absurd amount of energy to muster ten solid minutes of getting down on my kid’s level, in barefaced form, ready for gut-busting laughter should the opportunity present itself. You too?

What I want to know is, why?

Is it a personal thing or a generational thing? Have adults been so brainwashed into believing that play is a waste of time – or how about, that wasting time is a waste of time – that they are missing the gold right beneath their feet. Every single time without exception that I genuinely let myself join them in their honest pursuit of enjoying a thing, it’s like a buoying up that I didn’t know I needed. I was sinking and I couldn’t tell.

And yet, I fight it. In some measure, at least for me, this is a sticky stuck-on bit of my past that just will not let go of my ankles. When my daughter asked my husband why I had a difficult time playing, he said, “because it was raised out of her, Buddy. She needs you to teach her how to do it again.”

And last night when we got in from our walk/bike-ride down the street sitting around a very late dinner of salad and soup with unwashed hands and sweaty summer faces, my oldest said, “isn’t it sad that today will never happen again?”

What must it be like to live so hard that you’ll miss today when it’s over?

I intend to find out. Even if it takes me another 32 years to do it.

I’ve already got the best tutor around. All I need to do is pay attention.

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