Choosing to play

Andrew Wake Newsletter, Parenting

Hi to all,

Welcome back to 2017 and my first post of the year.

Towards the end of the holidays I was talking with my partner about spending time with our pre-schooler, and how surprisingly difficult it can be to find time to play with him. Focusing on play can be hard when there are so many others things on your mind. You have the best intentions, but there is always something else to do: a dish to wash, something to tidy, a car trip with the older kids, a meal to cook. Our minds are so often drawn elsewhere, and the have-to’s of family can overwhelm the want-to’s of play and fun.

She told me about a recent conversation she had had with a friend who said that she found that to play with her kids, she found she had to consciously choose to spend time with them. In doing this, she was choosing to not think about everything else that was on her list. It was then that she found her mind was free enough to focus solely on the play, and it became easier and more fun to play with them.

Chores are important, as are meals, car trips, your own needs, and all the other myriad tasks that the business of being a person in a family entails. These are the have-to’s. Important things we do to survive. But they are not the personal things that make us live and give us joy.

Personal things give us joy; the things that our children will remember fondly into the future. The things we will love and remember about relationships are the times of play, whether with toys, or in shared experiences like outings or holidays, or simply conversations.

For those who have read my book “The Good Enough Parent”, you may remember When I wrote about Dan Hughes’ idea of a “P.A.C.E.” approach when being with children. Acceptance is great, as is Curiosity and Empathy, but the thing that brings the most joy, connection and fun within relationships is Play.

Consciously choosing “I am now going to play with my child for 15 minutes, in spite of everything else I could do” may be helpful. In doing so, we free up our minds during that time to be able to focus on the play and fun with our kids.