March 27, 2024

Healing our Inner Child through Play.


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Recently, I watched a mom on Facebook brag about how much time she gets to herself to read a book or clean.

She said her trick was to say “no” when her kids asked her to play. She insisted that you must be persistent and continually say “no” over and over again, and eventually your kids will give up and stopping asking you to play.

My heart sank for her children as I heard her words. In her world, this was best.

It is children’s jobs to play, right? And play with each other. This is the only ways she thought she could get some much needed “me time,” where she can read and write and catch up on work. I couldn’t explain why, but hearing this made me feel as if she was missing out just as much as the kids.

I know that in my own life playing is difficult. Every fiber in my body screams “no!” almost every time I am asked to play. There’s too much to be done. The house is always a mess, and I know that a clean house means I feel more at peace. And yet, the real work is in front of me. I heal my inner child every time I play with my daughter.

As a child, I don’t remember playing with my parents too much. And even with my siblings, I often wanted to play more grown-up games. I don’t remember playing pretend. I remember writing scripts and director commercials. My siblings were the actors I could boss around. My sister and I would play school, and I was often journaling or listening to CDs, learning the song lyrics to the latest Relient K album. I think I was always a grown-up in a child’s body. It’s hard for me to be free and play pretend with my daughter. But it’s absolutely essential for my healing journey.

Not to mention, I would be ignoring the easiest way to find moments of free time. When saying no to playtime, tantrums are often just around the corner, as this likely makes a child feel ignored and undervalued. Philippa Perry’s The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read: (And Your Children Will be Glad That You Did says that saying yes to play leads us down an easier path to free time because once a child is engrossed in their activity, we can peel away to have a moment to ourselves, reading an article in the newspaper, washing dishes, or folding laundry. A child gets to this point after we follow their lead. They tell us what to do and how to play with them. Soon, they’re so caught up in their activity that they’re playing independently.

Most importantly, when we say no to our kids when they ask us to play, we’re skipping a crucial stage in their lives. Children model our behavior and should be included in our everyday tasks as well so they can learn to participate and enjoy daily living, including what we see as “chores.” This is a bonus to more free time: find a way to include your children in your hobbies. A token favorite of cooking with your children (as I found out from The China Study Cookbook) helps them to develop better eating habits and value healthy living into adulthood.

As I’ve been told by many parents with grown children (and I’m sure you’ve heard it as well), it (meaning your kid’s childhood) flies by. I don’t want to miss out because I was wrapped up in all that needed to be done.

One day, my daughter won’t be asking me to play Nail Salon or Airplane anymore. She’ll still need me but in different ways, and as I’ve heard, the problems just become more complicated. I want to fully enjoy these games of pretend, even when I’m not fully feeling it, because I know that I’m not going to regret the times I said yes.

I’ll regret the times I told her I was too busy.


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