I think we’ve become a society that has forgotten how to play and have fun. We don’t realize how much play time is important to our growth when we are kids and we’ve forgotten how important it is for our mental, physical, and emotional well -being as adults. When was the last time you squirted someone, or were squirted yourself, with a hose while watering the plants? Played hide and go seek? Chased someone around the yard? Spent time stretched out in the green grass watching the clouds take shape and move across the sky? Too many of us think we don’t have time for such silliness or the energy for that kind of horseplay. Well, it’s never too late to get back in the game and remember what it’s like to just let go and enjoy yourself with total abandon.
I watch my little granddaughters play together. They like to play house, be moms to their babies, and play school. They also like to build with Legos, play with trucks, and wrestle each other. As long as no one gets hurt, we’re all good. It’s interesting to eavesdrop on their play to get real insight into how they view the world and relationships. Once in a while they get into an argument over someone being bossy or not playing fair. Yep, a true picture of life.
They do play well together for a while, but too often they want to resort to watching tv or playing on their tablets. I think there is a time and a place for those kinds of sedentary activities in limited amounts of time, but I notice how moods, attitudes, and behaviors change. Not necessarily in a good way. Kids need to be active. They need things that keep them moving and thinking. Creating ways to use their imagination and add to their interests.
I started thinking of some of the things I enjoyed as a child. Just thinking about them makes me smile. During the warmer months, when out of school, we spent most of our time outside. We would only go inside to eat or go to the bathroom. In our family, we had two outhouses that Mom kept spotless, so going in to use the bathroom wasn’t something we did either. We didn’t want to go inside. There were too many things to do and explore outside and if you had a friend or two to do them with, all the better. Outside toys, other than balls and trucks, were difficult to find. Most of the time we looked for things that stirred our curiosity and held our interest. Catching frogs or toads during the day, fireflies for jars and night crawlers or crickets at night for fishing the next day, playing in puddles when it rained and pulling worms out of the water so they wouldn’t drown, or popping tar bubbles on the road when it got around 90 degrees, were just ways to pass the time. I remember hitting cap gun strips with a rock, hearing the little bang, and smelling the sulfur after. Climbing trees and skimming rocks. Fishing at the neighbor’s pond and catching Bluegill on a sunny day. Swimming in the strip mine after waiting for three 80 degree days in a row. That was Dad’s rule. We were always trying to avoid the muck that would ooze up between your toes at the water’s edge that ran about 4 feet out before you were past it. Sleeping out in a friend’s yard overnight was a big deal what with scaring ourselves silly by telling ghost stories and laughing so loud at ridiculous jokes that someone would yell at us to quiet down or go home. We played baseball, whiffle ball, or football, depending on how many kids we had and what most of us wanted to do. Taking the chill off by having bonfires in the Fall. I have no idea how we didn’t know about s’mores in those days. There were the snow days or weekends with sled riding down the hill on our road after we scraped off the ashes that the trucks dropped to keep people from losing control when they were driving the hill. We never got in trouble. I think the parents that had to drive it knew we just wanted to have fun. We would stand on the side watching the trucks drop it, all the while groaning and moaning about it, and as soon as they were out of sight, we’d put our sleds down and swing them back and forth to get the ashes off again. Everyone would gather at the top and since some kids didn’t have sleds, we’d share. My brothers and I had two; a long one and a short one. I would lay down on my stomach and two or three kids would pile on top of me and someone would push and jump on after we got going. I could barely breathe between the cold and the weight on me, but we’d all dissolve into fits of giggles at the bottom when we ran into a snowbank to stop. And back to the top we’d go, only going inside to get warm over the heat registers with a cup of hot cocoa that Mom always seemed to have ready for us. It was all about play from morning until night, when our parents would call us in because it was too dark to see. And before we’d part, we’d already have a plan in place for the next day. We didn’t usually play or eat in each other’s houses, tried not to wear out our welcome wherever we went, and knew that if we stepped out of line, there would always be somebody’s mother to set us straight. Sometimes we’d have a little argument, but you got over it quickly because you only had each other and nothing was ever so bad as to stop talking to each other for long.
Those were the best times and great fun. I wish my grandchildren could experience even half of that. Life is too serious anymore. That leads me up to the fact that most adults now either avoid play altogether or do extreme things to give them a thrill. I never did anything crazy as a kid and I have no urge to put my life in danger now. I can have fun just being around the right people. I don’t have to drink or do drugs to feel elation or a sense of otherworldliness. I still get the urge to scare someone by jumping out at them, or chasing someone with the garden hose, or just being plain old silly. I can’t say it’s always received well, but I have fun. I love to laugh and feel happy. Not at anyone’s expense, just some good old fashioned fun. I highly recommend it. If you can’t remember how, hang out with a few little kids and they will remind you. They also don’t care how silly you are. In fact, the sillier, the better. And while you are at it, reintroduce some of the fun you had as a kid. Special times, special memories. Now, go have some fun!