I don’t know how else to say this. You’ve got to go play.
No, I’m not talking about the sweet little boy in the cartoon underpants. He’s already got this thing under control. The question is, will he keep it. Way over on the left side of the picture you can see a girl with her face in the water. That’s my daughter, almost twelve when this picture was taken. She’s still got it too but many, many of the kids I know have already lost play by her age.
In fact, my son isn’t in this picture because he’s sitting next to me. He’s thirteen. Eventually, he did shrug off his almost adultness, take off his shirt and shoes, and kept pace with the carefree one pictured above. I hadn’t made a fuss about it, just said I’d watch his new tennis shoes, wallet, and iPod if he wanted to get wet. The oppressive heat helped too.
I played too. I don’t do it often but put a camera in my hand and look out, my inner child takes the wheel. It happens when I paint, laugh, play board games, and on and on. It happens after about 45 seconds of dancing and lasts for as long as I can keep moving my butt. It doesn’t happen when I knit (because that shit is serious) but maybe it will be more play-like when I get more comfortable. It happens sometimes when I’m cooking and every single time I get dirty in the garden.
Every single time I get dirty in the garden, it turns into a playground.
I wasn’t the get dirty type of kid, so it surprises me but I love to dig in the dirt. I don’t even like to wear gloves (unless I’m weeding something vicious, then the extra grip helps) because I love the way dirt feels. I love being dirty and sweaty, the exact same way I love having paint all over me and my clothes. I even love it when my hands are stained for a few days after we tie dye.
Strange? Perhaps, but I understand it.
I’m a grown up who lost the art of play in childhood and has worked (ironically) very hard to reconnect. All of those things that I avoided like the plague from some age between cartoon underpants boy and my kids’ age, left me avoiding some of the best parts of myself. I missed her. I’ve had to go back for her.
You might want to go back for yours, too.