“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
~George Bernard Shaw
Call me irresponsible, I don’t mind.
I admit that sometimes I would rather watch TV than do laundry, or read a book than write a blog post. At work, I love to surf the Internet and push piles of paper to the other side of my desk for a little while. Pinterest and Facebook sometimes take up hours of my time as I neglect work, emails, phone calls or my family.
But I hardly ever regret it because it’s what keeps me sane and centered.
Once upon a time I asked an ex-boyfriend what kind of animal I would be. He thought it for more than a day and came back to me with an answer that will likely stay with me for the rest of my life.
“You are an otter.”
He explained: “You are loyal and you love your family. If you watch otters build their homes you see they get their work done, but it’s not always perfect like a beaver dam. Instead it is cozy and perfect for them. Then those otters play. They swim and stay close to each other and they are easily amused with swimming or sticks. You are an otter because you stay loyal to people, you love your family and make their lives cozy, but what you are really good at is the playing.”
I remember smiling, even as he reminded me in his very practical and rational voice that playing was not all life was about and that everyone had to grow up at some point. In a rather condescending voice he told me that grown-ups followed rules and worked hard. They were dependable and avoided silliness.
“Well,” I answered. “What fun is that?”
As you can imagine, he wasn’t amused, but it was an honest question. For to me life is more than a rush to the end with as many adult accomplishments as I can acquire. I want people to remember my heart, my smile or my character and not how practical and dependable I was.
There are times when my body reminds me I am 42 years old and that I have 4-year-old sons who would love for me to run and bounce much more. But I know how to tickle those bellies, I know how to sit with them in my lap and read a book eight times instead of cleaning the sock drawers, I know that indulging their silly and imaginative minds and stories is what life is really about and that I will get to unloading that dishwasher later.
Today my life, like yours, is filled with so many responsibilities and obligations that I often forget to let go and enjoy myself. I mean, when is the last time you got lost in a book, laughed so hard you cried or basked in the freedom of an afternoon with nothing to do but take a walk or a nap or talk to your kids? Plus, if you do indulge in these things you might be shirking your work, writing or your housework. There just never seems to be enough time to do it all.
When did we forget about playing? What makes us feel shame or disappointment in ourselves when we choose a day of silliness instead of one where we check off our to-do lists?
The one amazing thing about being a mom of little people at this time of my life is that Giovanni and Jacob are teaching me how important it is to amuse myself and other people. I know having them in my life is going to keep me young for a long time.
I am going to be reclaiming my days of play.
So when I can—when the world allows—I avoid all the trappings of adulthood. I giggle and romp, I indulge and I eat cake, because that really is the best part of life.