Member Musings: Why It’s Important To Play With Your Child…


… when you maybe don’t want to.

All of us have been young children, as limited in our worldview as we were in our abilities to reach the countertop or into a high drawer for some scissors to go run around with. All of us have had to settle, for better or worse, with our small bodies and their perimeters, our areas of visibility, our reach. There’s a moment when a child will reach for a flying insect or the image of a bird overhead and, by reaching, expect to fly also.

When the thing moves on, the earthbound child seated on the blanket or the grass, the smallest new awareness of human limitation proceeds with its slow advance into the child. But the moment a mommy or daddy or big brother or sister comes along to play, bringing a toy or a story or a joke — connection is restored. The world is complete. To a very small child a parent is the whole world; to our children at any age, however it may escape our adult perceptions, the value of parental connection — in terms of their development, sense of place and security, and ability to adjust in life — is immeasurable.

Since we are all grown up — our area of visibility having broadened so greatly that we are aware not only of the bugs and birds, but of oceans and far-away places, of outer space, e-commerce, military and political activity, pesticides, gas prices, and discounts at the supermarket — our concerns feed complexly into our lives, day after day, until we’re so fixed on dealing with the many irons in the fire that it is difficult to remember what the world looks like as a child. Most days, it may look like a very busy adult is running all over the place doing everything but being fun and engaging. Other days, there may seem to be some interesting stuff going on — riding in the car to some museum or park that promises adventure, but being summarily disappointing as the parent frets over the details.

From birth, children require attachment. Babies dislike being set down, ignored, distracted, shut out. They demand connection, and are really good at getting it with their big cute eyes and pudgy knees and that whiff of amazing baby odor. As they grow, however, they go on from “toddler” to “kid” to “teen”, etc., exploring and seeming to need less and less of that connection. It’s an illusion, though. And the demands transition to requests to play some game that maybe the parent doesn’t feel up to playing. Sadly, even the requests may become gradually more infrequent until they no longer come.

As parents, we mustn’t take our children fawning affection for granted. In their adult years, our relationships with them will have been built on every ounce of connection we create and provide for during those child years. When a parent says “no” to playing, both lose the opportunity for connection. Saying “yes” more often leads not only to more connection with our children, but (maybe surprisingly) with ourselves.


Rubber Ducky Daddy

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