The Joy of Remembering Play
There is a big, blue, tufted bench nestled underneath the bay windows of our living room. Every time our nieces and nephews come to visit, it becomes the base of their fort.
They pluck every pillow in the room from its spot and drape throw blankets, and they adjust everything, so it’s just the way they like it.
Sometimes, it’s a camping ground.
Other times, it’s their sleepover party.
It’s been a castle, and a fort in the woods, and a boat. I’m sure I’m missing some other creations, but you get the idea. They change our living room into whatever story has found its way into their heads, and they play.
They play for hours, and they make up characters, and they make these intricate, detailed scenarios come to life in my living room. There are no tablets, no video games, no movie streaming on the television — just them and their imaginations hard at work.
Isn’t it funny how we can create and build and laugh and try and fail and play as kids — and yet somehow we forget that as we become adults?
Or maybe it’s as George Bernard Shaw says: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
What would life look like if we played more? Would that mean more laughter? More time outside in the sunshine? Would it mean closing that laptop at 7 pm and not picking it up until the next morning? Would it mean more out-of-office emails? Would it mean sticking to boundaries and finding flexibility within routines? Would it mean more time to dig deep into the world around you — the world that you can see, and hold, and taste, and touch, and smell — not the world that’s within the screen of your phone?
It’s easy to think that once we become adults, we’re supposed to shed the child within us — it’s easy to believe that we’re supposed to put on this armor that doesn’t let us show our sensitivity, or our wonder, or the gaps in our knowledge.
But that little kid who is sensitive with a sense of wonder is still in there, so is that child doesn’t know the answers to everything. That part of you that built forts and chased butterflies and made up stories that kept the adults in your life laughing and entertained is still there.
You have to let them come out and play every once and a while.
When that happens, delight unfolds.
When that happens, the world doesn’t feel so overwhelming, and life doesn’t feel so stressful, and you’ll remember what it’s like to laugh with ease.
When that happens, you’ll remember to savor the tiny moments that make life beautiful.
Moments like when you stop work a little early so that you can play board games with your kids; and when you forgo cleaning the dirty dinner dishes immediately so that you can linger at the table. Moments like when you savor that cup of coffee as you watch the sunlight dance in your kitchen; and when you and your beloved human decide to play in the snow, even though you’re grownups.
There’s plenty of work to do in this life — things to build, and people to support, and bills to pay, and goals to achieve. But knowing all of that doesn’t mean that you should avoid the joy found from unexpected play, for that’s where magic is found.
That’s where life is built.