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Call me crazy.
It should be so simple, but I did something as a parent today that I don’t ever once remember having the mental and emotional energy to do. I consider myself a decent parent. In that, I make mistakes with the best of intentions.
When my firstborn was around two, I’d taken a class in play therapy and committed to offering myself to him for 15 undivided minutes a day. I’d get on the ground with him. Explore his world at his level. Use his toys the way he did to show him I was willing to be in his world the same way I was asking him in most all other moments of the day, to be in mine.
My kids have pretty much been free rein on my watch. I adhered to their schedules except when I absolutely couldn’t. I didn’t force them into potty training or wean them when it’d be more convenient to do so. They ran barefoot and naked in play, and I joyously watched from above.
But I’d noticed the time in those 15 minutes, and how slow it went. I was “trying” to be a good mom. I was “trying” to be there more than I “was” there. But I forced myself to sit daily for those 15 minutes of undivided…his worlding.
Today though, Cy asked me to have a pillow fight.
The usual things were happening. You know, like, “I have four kids, a mind that sees from a bajillion angles, a mess to tend, people to respond to…”
I felt myself resist his request before he ran up to me with a boisterous smile and slammed me in the stomach with a pillow. At which point, I threw a pillow at him and he fell on the bed laughing in a ball.
I don’t know how long we played like this but it was so fun and so full of raw laughter that I noticed myself getting exhausted. After all, my inner resistance to presence doesn’t usually let me get “this” far. Whatever “this” was.
How can his small little body be so full of life? How can mine when I get out of the way of myself? It feels so intense—even the good.
It wasn’t like looking at the time “trying” to force myself to sit for those 15 minutes when my first was born.
Now, I was fully immersed the whole time and exhausted by it. At which point, my usual self would say, “one more time…” and I’d somehow find a way to put a limit on our fun. I’d justify it with my to-do list.
My pleasure-filled-exhaustion told me all the “to-do’s” could wait, and that me putting a limit on the moment was…well…whack AF.
So I stayed in it, and I let my kid play in his own world with me totally in it with him, without the moment in which I switch our play to “my” world in which play stops and “life” starts.
I let this be our life.
I decided to stay in that world with him until he was so full of it, that he, himself, wanted to transition out of it.
This eventually happened when he spotted his graham cracker bunnies sitting on the bed stand that he’d placed there about 20 super fun minutes later. When he jumped for them instead of a pillow, I knew he was done.
It’s the strangest thing.
It’s so strange to admit I don’t remember a time consciously choosing to stay in my child’s world for as long as they wanted—not only in sad states but in epically fun states.
I tend to give them all the time they need when they’re sad. And I’ve thought that makes me a decent parent.
But I recognize I don’t tend to give them all the time they need when they seem extremely content. Their contentment is somehow a neon sign to finish my chores rather than be alongside them in the contentment.
I realize today that both are equally in demand in the world of decent parenting—especially when the littles are little.
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