Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Time to Play

The economy has me in a slump. It is tough these days to write about daily life without referring to the ever-present predictions and manifestations of the international economic meltdown. You turn on the news or pick up almost any periodical and the first, second and third stories are all about the worsening economy – this company has laid off 10,000 workers or this company has filed for bankruptcy or this company has closed its doors forever. As a result, I’ve been writing less and reading more. The problem is that reading about what is happening around me doesn’t do much good. Ok, I’m informed about the events of the day, but what can I do about it?

HH doesn’t know anything about the global financial crisis. His world is an oasis from the ups and downs of the economy. When he comes padding down the hall each morning and commands me to join him on the living room floor for a session of Lego-world play, it is truly an escape. This realization didn’t dawn on me at first. We’ve been playing some form of this game for a long time. Like many little boys, HH is a constant builder. At first he used large wooden blocks, then Duplo Lego blocks and now he’s graduated to “big-boy” Lego. The building materials have changed but the game is pretty much the same, although the complexity of the story lines have evolved as he becomes more aware of the world around him and better able to express himself. In the last year, the intensity of the playing has noticeably picked up. It is the first thing he talks about in the morning – the very first thing – and the last thing he talks about at night before we slip into story time.

I have a confession to make - lazy father that I am. There were many times when I wished he would forget about Lego play and read a book or paint a picture or do almost anything but insist that I sprawl on the floor with him and give voice to the 20-odd characters who inhabit his miniature world. That’s my primary role in the game – voicing the characters. Each one has a specific voice and personality. HH voices about four of the characters and I do the rest. At the end of a session my voice is shot and my knees are sore.

Then about a month ago, after reading a particularly gloomy article, I realized that my son was offering me something I couldn’t find anywhere else. Short of soaking myself in whiskey, playing with him provided me with an opportunity to escape the real world for a moment or two. I’d forgotten how important play is in life, not just for children but for us grown-ups as well.

The other day he was playing with his milk, blowing bubbles through his flexible straw and dripping milk all over the table. I was tempted to say - “Don’t play with your food” - a phrase that came from some deep corner of my memory and nearly passed my lips before I suppressed it. I did caution him to keep his milk in his glass but I was reluctant to tell him not to play.

The next time he said, “Papa let’s play Mack and Hop-Sing” (that’s what we call our game) I was actually eager to join him. I forgot about the sinking stock market and the likelihood that the new project I was counting on might fall victim to the budget ax that has devastated so many in recent months. I don’t imagine that HH has picked up the pace and intensity of our playtime together because he senses some need in his Papa for more “down on the floor-time”, but I can’t help but be amazed at how our playing together has been a balm to me. The child is his father’s teacher, or so the saying goes, and every day HH does something to remind me to pay attention to what he has to say, and yes, to play.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Cathy said...

Great to see you again!
I sent you an e-mail.
Cathy

12:49 PM  
Blogger Mike B said...

"Don't play with your food" takes me back 40 years to my childhood. I don't know if it was the by-product of a prior generation that grew up with scarcity, or if they had more probity because of it, or perhaps it was something else. I occasionally need to tell my nephews to stop playing with their food because we simply need to move along with things, and I don't know if that is because the time seems shorter and much more bounded when one is on this end of the age spectrum.

The economy still hasn't sunk in to the psyche of those around me in DL, or they simply don't show it.

11:28 AM  

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