Play: The Other Side of Rest (my OneWord for 2012)

Rest and play

My daughter's and her friend's fairy houses. Next time, I want to be out there building with them.

When I chose “Rest” for my OneWord resolution for 2012, I knew I needed help. When I’d even think of resting, I’d get restless. Then when I forced myself into physical rest, my mind would race and make me anxious. I was the worst rester EVER.

But slowly and just through awareness of what I need in the moment, I’ve been getting better at it. More consistent. Sometimes when I have a free moment, I actually think about what my soul needs, and many, many times, the answer is Rest. And so I take a 20-minute nap, or I sit outside in the grass with my journal, or I enjoy a latte and a magazine for part of the afternoon.

But in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, qualitative researcher Brene Brown says that Rest is one side of a coin. The other side? Play.

If there’s anything I’m worse at than rest, it’s play.

When Nathan gets home after a long day, he’s the one who sits down to play cars with the kids. Thankful for a break, I stick to the kitchen, happy to prepare the meal in relative peace. Or after dinner when the kids are begging to have some type of Family Fun outside, he gets on his tennis shoes and kicks the soccer ball with them, and if I join them too, it’s to take photos of everyone else playing.

It’s pretty hard to get Mommy to join in the play. I’ll do it for tiny amounts of time during the day, but the kitchen’s always a mess and I just remembered that bill needs to go out today and what about the load of clothes in the dryer that buzzed two hours (okay, two days) ago?

And every time I jump up from the game or do just one more thing or make them wait another minute, it’s one of those things I know to be true: I’m going to regret this.

We’re in a magical (and completely exhausting) phase of parenting where our kids want nothing more than to play with us. It’s mutually healing and restorative, and I know I will miss it.

So why am I not all there?

Last week I wrote about being “all in,” to dare greatly and risk failure for a richer life. But here’s the thing: I think sometimes it’s easier to be “all in” for the big things. Major events and extraordinary beauty have a way of hitting you on the face, and you sit up and notice. But the mundane and everyday? I’m often thinking of what I could be doing or sometimes, distracting myself with my phone or computer, being around my kids but not really with them.

Because the mundane is exactly that, much of the time: Really boring. Even when it’s playtime.

I’m all about heaping grace on parents of young children, myself included. I know that constant presence isn’t possible, and that the parenting pendulum has swung too far in one direction just a few generations after the term “parenting” was even coined (before that, it was ‘child rearing’). Our kids need some time alone to explore, to get dirty, to find their own fun without assistance. But it will feel much better sending them outside on their own to play (and then later, sending them away in the world on their own life adventure) if I know I’ve taken the moments with them that were handed to me.

So along with rest, I’m trying to remember how to play. I’m incorporating that into my OneWord resolution for this year, since it’s really just another way to say Rest, and since I know how vital each of those is, even if I didn’t have any kids. I could use a little more playfulness in my week and in my life. I could lighten up a little.

I know the wonder is out there, and I think some of it can only be found by playing around until it’s there, on your belly on the floor, using your imagination to get into character and taking your child’s hand and saying, Show me the way.

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3 comments on “Play: The Other Side of Rest (my OneWord for 2012)

  1. Mama Zen says:

    This speaks directly to my heart!

  2. Not sure how I missed this when you posted it originally (thankful that my Google Reader never forgets). This is beautiful. I struggle too with this. I think in some ways I’ve lost my capacity to play. But I’m sure there’s soul-gifts there that I’m missing because I don’t engage. Thanks for this reminder.

  3. Audrey Alice says:

    Those were really bad fairy houses
    Your daughter, Audrey