As easy as child’s play?

Newsletter, Issue 7

I am currently reading a book about Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen and it’s making me smile. It’s reminding me of the importance of play in life and giving permission for more!

In all seriousness (see how it creeps in), you should understand that this is coming from a woman who now spends time leaping around with a fur eiderdown over her head, tongue lolling & barking loudly one minute, rolling around on the floor in tickling bouts or pretend wrestling matches the next, or making monkey noises and doing wild arm gestures another. Yes, parenting gives us an excuse to play more wildly, more noisily and differently, to ditch decorum for a few minutes or hours and just play more.

How can we bring the benefits of this into the rest of our lives? And what helps us when we struggle to play?

Well, What is Play?

Is it spontaneity, games, creativity, silliness, making up & breaking rules, permission, fun, giggles, flow, experimentation, enjoying mistakes? We probably each have our own list, but where does connection come on it? Is it even there?

Children Play to Connect

What I’m realising is that children play to connect. It is their way of communicating and their most valuable relationship tool, and they tend to want to do it all the time. What if we were able to do this more as adults in relationship with our partners? When I ask my son what he wants to do at any point in the day his answer is always “play”. As yet, he rarely defines this any further as if ‘play’ is everything and the context is unimportant. I am starting to realise he is inviting me to connect with him, and that it can be over anything. How wonderful, and impossible… When we really play together its so much fun, and when I can’t join him it’s horrid. So how come it’s so hard to respond at times?

I notice this with my husband too. There are magical times when our playfulness is in sync and we joke around together, laugh a lot and it is easy to be tender, make love, and to be deeply connected. At other times one of us will be playful and the other one won’t want to join in, or will need lots of invitations to play before it is possible to cross what feels like a hopeless divide and to dare to connect again. Of course this is totally normal but understanding it can help us recover more quickly in our relationships.

What is happening when as children or adults we don’t want to play?

When do we Find it Hard to Connect?

OK, a huge question, but I like Cohen’s simple answer that we all find it hard to be playful when we feel powerless or isolated. Personally I tend to get angry or withdrawn when I feel like that and find it much harder to reconnect with my son or my husband. The challenge as parents is we see our children acting up and the last thing we usually feel like bringing is play to help them through their powerlessness or isolation. In relationship with our partners it is even more loaded, as there are so many other dynamics at play, yet time and again play can cut through these and bring a lightness that allows and enables closeness even in the tough times.

What Can we Learn about Connection within Ourselves?

Having been self employed for over 6 years and stuck working with ‘me’ much of the time, I have discovered how powerful it is for my work to feel like play. For it to stay with the enthusiasm, curiosity, flow and dynamism of this, alongside taking it seriously and being responsible. As with much in life, it comes and goes and so I try to notice what gets me back to lightness.

What Structures Help us When we Can’t Help Ourselves?

In The Artist’s Way: A Course to Discovering Your Creative Self Julia Cameron suggests having Play Dates with yourself, where you book time to do anything that would feel playful for you on your own.

I realised I have a list of things I do to create opportunities to play – from time with certain people and groups, being with children (easy right now!), being in creative environments, having time out or away, wearing clothes that bring out my playful side, following my wanting, being outside, listening to particular music, not wearing a watch, just being, doing things I loved as a child, to preparing and eating fun food. What works for you?

As adults, it’s easy to become serious as we take on responsibility and ‘work hard’, forgetting the value of play to reconnect with others, release emotion, express ourselves, learn and develop confidence. So here’s a reminder in time for the summer… the perfect playtime!


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