PLAYING FOR KEEPS

The temperature’s rising, the humidities curling my hair and the cool wisp of a soft breeze is heaven sent as Summer makes her fiery entry. This summer is not going to be like so many before since I “became” an adult. You know, this becoming an adult, the working the job, paying the bills and feeding the family…taking on the yoke of duties, responsibilities, and obligations. This summer, I’m gonna go back in time to endlessly long days of feeling a part of nature and free as a bird. I’m gonna play.

Back then, I’d wake up with anticipation lifting my eyelids, enthusiasm swinging my childish body out of bed, excitement at the possibilities filling me up more than the breakfast my mom had prepared. My brothers and I would grab our scooters and bikes and head out to the woodland forest growing outwards from the back of our house. There was no place we had to be, no tasks that couldn’t wait and no timeline we had to meet except the line of horizon touched by the sun as it slipped into dusk.

I have a memory of walking single file with my big brother in front of me and my little brother behind me, parting the taller than tall bushes as the sun glistened through the leaves and the birds tweeted their love songs. Suddenly, we come to a halt as the path ends abruptly above a steep dip in the land and the way back appears more daunting than what’s dipping down before us. My older brother signals slightly with his head that he was….going down… as down he goes. I look back and as I face forward again I let my knees dip and down I slide on what would be my first roller coaster ride! I ride the fear, exhilarated as I feel the whip of the branches along my arms and as my little brother follows I hear our three screams form a mosaic of gleeful sound.

Our adventure continued as we feasted on the land, tasting the juice of mangoes, popping sweet cherries until our mouths hurt for space and our sun hot skin got cooled by a passing cloud. At any point we could transform into archeologists searching for treasures of the past, pirates shipwrecked and lost or hunters circling past their prey which looked very much like the neighborhood dogs. We came home, our legs covered with the webs of tiny scratches and our heads emptied of thoughts heavier than a cloud. Our beds felt like the castles of kings and our sleep was deeper than the ocean.

Yes, this summer I’m going back in time to play. I’ll take time off with no schedule in mind except to follow the dictates of weather, like should I pull out the rain boots to stomp the puddles or shake out the bikini matching the blueness of the sky? I’m bringing fun back even if back means my backyard swaying in a makeshift hammock. I’m getting unplugged, switching off the guilt, turning down the frenzied volume of adulthood and tuning in to the ME 1-2-1 channel! I’m going rogue and I’m taking every last one with me!

So family beware! I’ve known the power of play crafted in the ten characteristics that experts say support how we choose and direct our play; immersed in the experience rather than what we can gain from it. We construct it from our imagination and make it as complicated or as simplistic as we want it to be. Family, our summer manifesto could end up looking something like this:

Active: collecting sand shells as the surf recedes from our feet

adventuresome: figuring something out that we have no knowledge of, like baking a cake from scratch and without Youtube

communicating: with a shift in our seat on a rowboat so we don’t tip it

enjoyment: in how we’re going to stay on the Frisbee as we try tobogganing down the wet tarmac on the lawn

involvement: using thought, concentration and focus to avoid being eaten by the snake for the third time in the Snakes & Ladders board game

meaningful: through serving meals to homeless strangers and sitting down to eat with them

sociable: in waking up to the sounds of a foreign language and the unfamiliar smell of an exotic meal

symbolic: through playing “house” where kids rule [ within reason] aspects of the day like meals or bedtime

therapeutic: creating a dollhouse entirely from legos with 2 or 3 playdates

voluntary: anything and everything’s optional at some point in the day or on any given day

This summer those ten characteristics of play are still just going to be boundaries as fluid as the misty dawn and the tinge of darkness before nightfall since play is about freedom. I’ll give myself permission to be as free as any child even as I encourage my own to throw out all the bad habits which we as adults have saddled them. The habits that fill every hour with something to think or do rather than just be in the moment. Those habits which tell us to keep up appearances rather than “make believe’ all the ways we can meander to our dreams. Those habits which crumble our joy in the simple moments of silence with ourselves rather than bolster our souls with the knowledge that we’re enough, as persons, as mothers, as women, as ourselves. This summer I’m gonna play to give me back to me, for keeps.

Sallye Forth is a mom working outside of the home, a co-parent, life coach and writer. She’s a citizen of the world who shares her world view on varied topics of interests on her blog, Blogstown; a cybercafé for grown ups.

Contributing sources include:

The Power of Play: The characteristics of Play by Kylie Rymanowicz. Michigan State University Extension.

Freerangekids.com

Demo.t2themes.com

nusu.co.uk

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