Permission to Play

Permission to Play February 26, 2011
Adults have lots of things to juggle. Life can be complicated, filled with responsibility. We have to be able to keep the bills paid, the house clean, and everyone fed and clothed in order for life to keep going.
Life is serious business, and it can feel like there is no time to waste doing things “unproductive” things that don’t matter in the long run.
I know that I have always been a serious person, the one who makes everything come together on time and looking good. At a party you will be most likely to find me in the kitchen. I am comfortable there, I can’t say anything that could offend someone, I am doing something “productive”.
Actually it’s taken me awhile to be OK with doing stuff that isn’t “productive”. I’ve always been in the habit of “wasting” time reading a book, but actually letting myself have fun and be silly was another story.
When I first got married, I kept up the housework pretty easily, so I had the time to play, but I didn’t know how to relax and have fun without feeling guilty. It had been awhile since I’d been OK with letting myself be imperfect. I was the responsible older sister who kept everything running smoothly, if I wasn’t the responsible one, who would be? Playing was a waste of time that could be used for more useful, productive or “Godly” pursuits.
My husband and I had our playful moments spent giggling in bed late at night when we were supposed to be going to sleep, but we both had our old messages of “profitable work” and “time wasted”. So we focused on the “important” things, and playtime was rare.
After kids arrived things kept up the same way, we brought the kids to the park so the kids could play. I made funny face sandwiches for the kids so they could have fun with their food. We took them to the zoo so that they could have fun looking at the animals, and we made sure that all the logistical stuff was in place to make the day happen. I gave them a project to do so that I could catch up with the “important stuff”. But along the way, life started to change.
It started when we were at the park last summer and I sat on a swing myself. Soon I was swinging higher than I had in years, and laughing uncontrollably at the tickles in my stomach.
A few months later, my husband and I were in an intense discussion about finances and the kids were begging for a chance to paint. I covered the table with the paint sheet and got out the paints and brushes while my husband and I kept talking, and on an impulse grabbed some extra paper for us too. After a few moments of dipping into paint and brushing patterns onto paper, we were relaxed and laughing.
A week ago, I dumped out the still warm homemade playdough on the table and as my husband started rolling out a long snake, I realized that we were playing. We were making silly stuff out of the soft dough, and then smooshing it back together and making something new. No worries about “doing it right” or being disappointed in how something looked.
We were having fun, and not just fun acceptable for “grown ups” like partying or watching the game, we were playing just like our children were, using them as the excuse to make it OK.
Why did we have to have children in order to justify “play”? When do you become to grown up to play? When did we become too perfectionistic to enjoy doing something that isn’t really “productive”.
My husband remembers being thirteen years old and spending $60 on a special toy, and then being scolded by his dad for wasting money on something he really was “too old” to play with anyways.
Do you remember when something that you enjoyed was made fun of or belittled? When did play become unimportant, silly, or selfish?

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