Can a forty year old woman play?

“Mama will you play with me?” My daughter asks me at least thirteen times in one day.

“Sure” I reply as I sit down on our living room rug and pick up a Shopkin. “Can we play the game where we categorize the Shopkins and put them in the collector’s case?”

“No Mom, that’s not playing.” She educates me, and I struggle to understand why not.

“Like this,” she says “Hi, I’m Delish Donut…” and she bounces around a tiny plastic donut with a bite taken out of it.

I adore time with my children, yet these six words “Mama will you play with me,” resemble a mix up at the post office. I believe this six word invitation, written in the fanciest calligraphy implying unquestionable importance, was addressed to my soul and accidentally got delivered to my impatience.

When I pick up a Shopkin or a plastic horse or a doll, my thoughts literally race, competing with each other for who will distract me the quickest. And I cringe. This invitation to play is the most innocent and precious request for my attention than I’ve ever received. It feels like an honor and yet an inconvenience at the same time.

I wonder, why playing on the floor with toys is hard for me to do.

“I spy with my little eye something golden.” My daughter says spontaneously as we drive down the road.

“Wildflowers, the sun, the stripes in the middle of the road.” I reply.

“Nooooo” She says, dragging out the sound of the o, trying to build the excitement.

“I don’t know, what is it?” I ask. I’m sure this is a fun game of mindlessly listing off things that might be golden, but I was really into singing along with Ed Sheeran and thinking about which color nail polish I’m in the mood to put on later this afternoon.

“Ugh, Mom. This is why I don’t like playing with grown ups. You never use your imagination. It’s this dot on the flower on my sandals. I don’t know why you didn’t guess that.” She says with disgust.

I didn’t guess that because her ispy challenge was unrealistic, and I couldn’t see that the flower on her sandals, in the back seat of the car I was driving, had golden glitter on them. Obviously, imagination and eyes in the back of my head are not the same thing. I clearly use my imagination, like when I was imaging what I would wear if I painted my nails with a periwinkle polish this weekend.

Again, I wonder why playing a simple game of ispy is hard for me to do.

What play use to look like.

I remember playing outside with my sisters, as a young girl, making mud pies and catching fire flies. I remember when we would get home from the grocery store, my mom would take the groceries out of the bags before she put them away, and I would play like I was a cashier, putting all of the groceries back into the bags. I remember sitting with my sister at our little desks and pretending that we were in school. I sang into a microphone and performed dance routines with my friends. As a child, I visited the world of fantasy so often that I didn’t know the difference between the two worlds of fantasy and reality. 

My memories of playing as a girl don’t come alone. They come holding hands with my feelings of adventure and freedom. When I use to play I didn’t notice time or obligation. I was completely care free. The memories of driving and riding our 4 wheelers through the trails around our property feel brave, adventurous and free.

As a forty year old woman, I think differently about the things I use to do when I was playing as a child.

  • Making mud pies leave dirt stuck underneath my nails for days
  • Grocery shopping is a weekly chore
  • School reminds me of ear numbing lectures
  • Dancing is an unbearable vulnerability, I’m unwilling to experience

What I do now that makes me feel adventurous and carefree.

When my daughter invites me to join her in the world of fantasy, I don’t even recognize it. It’s like visiting a city where I use to live after ten years, and not remembering my way around because the highways are now eight lanes, lined with restaurant chains and car dealerships.

Yet, this is where I meet my daughter, in a world where socks are doll beds and card board boxes are houses. My daughter’s entire world is her playground and she’s taught me that it’s fun to incorporate playing in almost everything we do. 

  • Bath time = a western scene where all of the cowgirls bring their horses to the watering hole for a drink.
  • Setting the table = planning a fancy party with a table cloth and centerpiece
  • Walking down the hallway to our room = an Olympic one hundred meter track race

In my family, our playgrounds all look very different. My husband looses track of time when he’s at the diesel shop with the smells of gasoline and exhaust. My son plays with his friends at the lake, swinging from ropes and jumping in the water.

I have several playgrounds. They are in the world of reality now, miles away from fantasy. When I play, I enter a place in my mind that is free of the daily hustle, and my play looks like this:

  • Talking at a coffee shop with a girlfriend
  • Organizing anything with bins, clip boards, bags, cubbies, carts, and lazy susan turn tables
  • Preparing my house to host a new season of the year with decorations and accessories
  • Creating mood boards
  • Writing. Carefully choosing words, organizing them into sentences and organizing those sentences into stories
  • Traveling

It’s curious to me that I use to play with mud and now I play with organizational bins, yet it feels very similar. It feels like my thoughts are set aside and for a while, I’m involved completely in what I’m doing without distraction. It opens me up to a meditative state, where I enjoy Life’s sense of humor and entertainment.

In this state of pure enjoyment, I meet my family and we make strong connections. Through the playing on the living room rug or in the car or in the bathroom, we create a fun place to exist together. Our souls meet and lounge in the abundance of our lives and in the luxury of setting aside our thoughts to connect.

This article will be featured in the June issue of "Sexy Spirit Mom." Stay tuned for it's appearance.