All Work And No Play
My wife and I recently began playing with our youngest son again. He had gotten to the age where if he was going to play he would probably want to play with his friends or alone, but he had been having a lot of trouble at school and it seemed to us he was not happy. How do you make someone happy who is unhappy? You can’t. But you can help remind him what happiness feels like, and the best way we could think to do this with our son was to play with him. Here is the thing about playing that I had forgotten: It can start anywhere. For instance, our playing began because one day my son was having a hellish afternoon. As a kind of joke and because we thought it might help, my wife and I forced him into a group hug. He decided it would be funnier if he didn’t let go of the hug. So I said, “Let’s see if we can walk together as a group into the bedroom without falling over or letting go.”
We did. Then we tried traveling over the whole house. And then we tied our ankles together to see how far we could walk as a four-legged beast. And then we took the bandanna off our ankle, put it over our eyes and played hotter/colder. All because we made the joke of a group hug.
We are told that adult life divides itself into work and play, but I disagree. The point of play is to try something and see what of that something is of interest. The point of play is to follow your interest without judgment. Is this not what we do when we write? Yes, you want to be paid; yes, you are critiqued – but what are you doing but finding some kernel of interest and following it? Work is a mirage, an idea that life is somehow an obligation to be fulfilled. It is the word we invented when we decided happiness should be quarantined lest it distract us from the business of not dying.
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