I’m experimenting with playfulness. What happens when I’m playful? What are the results?
Yesterday’s results told me that there is nothing more relishable, magnetizing, and safer for a child than a playful parent.
I’m starting to think that playfulness is the nutrient families are lacking and are deficient in and deprived of. And when we add that nutrient back to our diet, a lot of vitality and joy return. That’s my running theory…
By the end of the play time, my two boys were glued to me like cuddly babies. Looking up at me with all the trust and joy inside of them. I felt incredibly touched by the experience.
So what happened was I chose to go ALL OUT in my silliness. I started the game by dramatically pretending I was upset and wanted to be alone on the couch all balled up. I just made that up out of nowhere.
Immediately my 4.5 year old son (“C”) was enraptured and was running over to sit on me and attack me. I pretended, “Hey! I’m going to go sit over here instead! Hmmpf.” He found a way to interfere with my “alone time”. He couldn’t stand to not be in my lap. He wanted to cuddle me, and at the same time we were pretending he was bothering and eventually scaring me.
My 6.5 year old son (“L”) joined in and bellowed out a huge roar. I acted very scared and went to protect my other son. I notice he kept a little bit of a distance. The game was morphing, we were playing with the roles. At one point, I felt like I wanted L to also be cuddling us physically so I said, “Hey, if you come sit over here with me, I’m going to cry an angry smile!”
What that was going to be, I hadn’t figured it out yet. But it was irresistible so he came and sat on me. So I figured out how to cry an angry smile. I did a few more of those, like whisper a happy yell, like that.
Play keeps us vital and alive. It gives us an enthusiasm for life that is irreplaceable. Without it, life just doesn’t taste good!– Lucia Capocchione
Here’s where it started to get really outrageously fun for them. I was pretending to be scared and they were chasing me around the living room. I noticed it made them laugh so I kept running in a silly way. C needed to be really physically close (out of sheer glee and love [what a sweetheart]) so I got down on the ground.
He decided to switch between scaring me and being sweet to me. So I was switching from happy to scared, depending on his facial expressions… It was manic – but that’s where he went.Eventually I “freaked out” and was flailing on the ground, wriggling side to side with my hands flapping. I was whining loudly about how horrible the whole game had been. They were both hysterically laughing and if I stopped they told me to do it again.
I sense that the freak out resonated in general with kid life. They experience joy, elation, disappointment, anger – all of it – probably on most days. Lately there’s some whining happening for them, so I think I was speaking to their typical feelings.
So I obliged. “You are scary! Then you’re nice! Then you’re scary again! And he was roaring! And I’m not having any fun! And I tried to hide! But you both kept coming to bother me! I can’t even have fun! Aaaahhhhhh.”
They absolutely loved that outrageous tantruming. LOL.
Then there was a really sweet special thing that occurred. My youngest was laying on top of me during the whole freak out, he was resting his head, and just relishing in the feeling of security between us.
And about 10 minutes later my 6.5 yr old did the same thing. We laid in our hammock together, and he asked me to sing him nursery rhymes while he played with my necklace.
Playing takes the edge off! It settles the soul. It give children a simple, settled feeling. Walls get dropped and closeness is all that’s left.
I see it as a language. Children speak in the language of play and pretend. And if we as parents choose to speak their language with them, they are very deeply satisfied to have us join them in their world.
It’s really as simple as that, in my opinion.
And what a win-win it is when I choose to be playful. I feel close and joyful too.
Right about now some parents reading this story about play and connection could be feeling guilty. I know that feeling, it comes up for me too.
The obstacles to cultivating play are very real for us adults. I do not minimize that at all. In various ways our playful nature has been covered over or not yet allowed to be expressed.
Or maybe we’ve unconsciously set up busy stressful lives. It can be a big (even painful) process to untangle a life that’s not working for us, in order to really create that joyful, playful, purposeful family life we envision.
The way I see it is that it’s an uncovering process. We are designed to be joyful playful beings. That’s the nature of each soul.I experience the uncovering process as meaningful and valuable. It comes with emotions, hard work, mistakes, but also celebration.
So yeah. That’s a little story about the laboratory of my parenting and my play studies.
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