My little girl stayed up late last night. While I pottered in the kitchen making a late dinner, she sat at the kitchen table, playing. At 9pm she was due to go to bed. I looked across and was about to usher her gently upstairs, when the sounds of her game arrested me.
She was playing with Lego. Girly Lego, all pinks and purples, and jewel-like door knobs. She had created a little house and garden, and had entered a world of complete fantasy with a handful of little Lego girls. She played for fully 45 minutes, totally lost, and making the most adorable voice changes for each character. I was entranced.
At 5 years old she has just started to get the idea that impeccable behaviour and a low profile can reap the benefit of a later bedtime. I’m sure this was part of the story, yet there was something else too. She was playing like she was on borrowed time. As indeed she was, the Sword of Bedtime hanging perilously over her sweet head. This ever-present possibility of her game being arrested made her play with a greater enthusiasm and intensity. The game became more than just a fun thing to do. It was a means to an end, and charged with excitement as a result.
It made me reflect on how I play with the children.
I’m usually busy (who isn’t!), and playtime is all too often something that is fitted in around other daily obligations. As I stack blocks, play Princesses or build a den with them I’m having fun, but half my mind is often elsewhere, or thinking about how the mess being created is going to take ages to tidy up. I feel like I’m short-changing them, and myself. That’s not a comfortable acknowledgement.
Hmm, what to do? Then it hit me.
Play like I’m on borrowed time too.
They grow so fast, one day I’ll realise they don’t really want to play anymore at all. My new resolution is to leave my adult mind at the door when I enter the play-zone, and access that excitement that comes from truly losing yourself in a game.