Category Archives: Play

Introducing Michael, Judy and Baby Jesus

Let me start by introducing you to  (from left to right) Michael, Judy and Baby Jesus:

2015-03-23_10-22-50_563

These 3 characters have been in our lives for about 2 years now, when a family friend outgrew them and offered them to our daughter, who was approaching 3 at the time. She immediately named them Michael, Judy and Baby Jesus. All 3 of them are girls, though Michael is often referred to as “he” (when I double checked on Michael’s gender, my little one informed me: “of course he is a girl because boys don’t wear dresses”). Baby Jesus is also a girl on this stage.

My last post was about the world of play, and I again stand in awe and wonder at the imagination of children. These porcelain dolls are “supposed” to sit on a shelf and collect dust, as far as the rules of such things are concerned. The dolls each came with stands that have long since been lost. I could have said “no” to playing with them this way because this was not what these dolls are for. According to who? Instead, I allowed my children (and myself) to step out of the box and onto a stage that has frankly been incredibly entertaining over the past two years since these characters arrived in our lives.

2015-03-23_10-20-23_973

You can see that poor Michael has come upon some hard times. She now has a prosthetic leg; my son has explained that the wire sticking out of her leg is the prosthesis. I haven’t questioned her ability to walk with this highly unusual prosthetic attachment. Had Michael spent her life on her stand, gathering dust on a shelf I am quite certain her legs would be intact. Michael also has the misfortune of frequently being without clothing. Yet Michael seems just fine and she always plays an active role in the play that ensues when she and her cohort emerge.

Yesterday Judy was preparing for her wedding. She got on her white wedding dress and her wedding hat. My littlest one spent close to 30 minutes in quiet chatter with Judy, preparing her for the big event. Today, big brother donned his shirt and tie and, with an ornate soup ladle in hand, became the pastor who performed the wedding ceremony. Baby Jesus had a baby sitter for the event, but Michael was in attendance. I am unclear who Judy was marrying as there didn’t seem to be an additional party, but this was quite irrelevant to the game so I kept my “the way it should be” mouth shut. And I watched. And I listened. And I was so blessed by the beauty and the wonder of quietly observing, unnoticed.

2015-03-23_10-59-38_858

It appeared to me that Baby Jesus’ baby sitter was a much younger baby (who is being introduced to Judy and Baby Jesus above). But again, I zipped it and watched, amused.

And occasionally, Creulle deVil would show up and cause trouble. And the “pastor” would quickly morph into a dalmation and chase her off.

(Aside: the “pastor” is currently waiting for me to help him create a dalmation costume.)

Life with young children can often feel like living in a dream sequence. The stories change so abruptly that I can hardly keep up (and usually don’t, which is met with “Mommy! We aren’t playing THAT game anymore!” – oh. apparently mommy is a bit slow…)

But it IS a dream sequence that feels like a dream come true. A beautiful dream of active children with active imaginations. And lifelong learning to let go of how things “should” be. Living outside the box as often as I can remember to step out. Living in a new freedom that comes from childlike imagination.

And as I watch and listen to them, I remember. I remember the stories that were so vividly real to me as a 5 year old, an 8 year old, an 11 year old. Those moments were exciting and felt as real as anything could at the time. So I remember to be quiet and allow Baby Jesus to be a porcelain doll in a floral dress with an infant babysitter, and Michael to have a nub of wire as a prosthetic leg, and my boy to be a pastor turned dalmation who presides at weddings with a soup ladle, and Judy to have a wedding where she marries nobody in particular.

2015-03-23_11-00-09_748

And it is sweet to live out of the box. I am learning to step out of this box more and more, and I am finding great freedom in it. Once again, my children have been the vessel for teaching me some important lessons. We need to see our children, really SEE them. We need to step out of the boxes that confine us unnecessarily. We need to live in freedom and learn from all of the unlikely people that God has placed in our lives to teach us. When I remain open to strange possibilities, I am amazed at what I learn. Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…”

And now I am going to learn how to make a dalmation costume with my first born. I can’t wait to see what new characters emerge on the stage today!

Postscript: Here is the outcome of the dalmation costume. Everything is learning! In this case I learned, yet again, to keep it simple and stay out of the way, allowing my boy to create something that he is excited about (whether it looks like a dalmation or a spotted mummy…he is happy and thinks he looks just like Pongo!). When I interfere we are both frustrated and he doesn’t learn. When I butt out and act as a “sous chef” of costume design, we are both happy and we both learn!

2015-03-23_12-49-28_221

2015-03-23_12-49-43_119

Advertisements

“Le merveilleux monde du jeu” – Why I need to play!

2015-01-16_13-27-55_731Children know how to play. They live in a magical world full of whimsy and wonder. They live free from reality. Free from time.
I want to live in that world!
Really.

2015-01-16_13-25-44_928

Somewhere along the way we lose the ability to play. Responsibility takes over and we lose the wonder.
But we NEED to play. We need whimsy.

whimsical

2015-01-16_13-30-52_903

I watch my children with utmost fascination, often reminded by their fantasy worlds of times when I too lived in that wonderful place. A place where anything is possible and dreams are real, where a stuffed rabbit is a alive and a cardboard steering wheel actually drives me places, where building blocks present a serious business of constructing a wall and where trees and forests are magical kingdoms alive with gnomes and fairies.

wall and duck

Chefs
Why do we lose those places as adults?
(Apart from the reality of knowing that living there would lead to our confinement to the psychiatry ward I mean…)
Seriously?
Children have a gift that we adults need to learn to tap into!
Yes, we need to be responsible and live in reality. But why does this have to be a case of “either/or”? I am sure there is a way it can be “both/and”.
How do I live as a responsible adult AND enjoy whimsy and play? I can play some, but I know beyond a doubt that playing more would benefit my soul – and by proxy, would benefit my family.

more whimsy

There are many studies out right now that suggest that our children are over scheduled and pushed to learn to much too soon. These studies all look at the benefits of play and free, unstructured time. Our culture is beginning to impose its crazed need to achieve on our children. Put them in school earlier, longer. Teach them more, sooner. Schedule them in as many extra curricular activities as possible. Give them a leg up on all the rest! Or so we think. We are all guilty to a degree.

2015-01-16_12-28-54_110

2015-01-16_12-41-03_707

But as I sit and watch my children play, revelling in their imaginary world, I know this matters. I know this teaches. I know this feeds. Not just them, but me too.
I am not suggesting that I need to play with wooden blocks and stuffed animals, but I DO need to engage more regularly in a more age appropriate version of play (not that there is anything wrong with enjoying building block towers with my children). I admit that I love coloring as much (or possibly even more) than the average 5 year old, but taking it to the adult version of acrylic paints or pencil portraits takes it to a whole new level: from mindless coloring and enjoyment of making pretty pictures to a soul feeding focused moment of perfect mental escape into paints and color and creating – something my adult child needs!

kids play
And as I wander around this children’s museum and watch in wonder as my children engage for hours on end in imaginary lives, I snap photo after photo. And they ask “why?” Can I answer that my soul needs to capture these moments as reminders to myself to play, to create, to wonder? That I am freezing frames so I can write later, creating stories of my own? Adult musings that look nothing like the wildly imaginative space cats stories nor those of hippos in tutus and dancing octopi, the stories I live in when I live in my children’s worlds.

still more whimsy
I love spending time in play with my children. And, I am learning more and more how much I (and all adults) also need to play. I am not big on new year’s resolutions, and in fact, as of this moment hadn’t given them a moment’s thought. However, I think that this year I need to remember to play more. Both physical play outdoors – hockey and sledding and sking – and also mental play – drawing and photos and writing and singing. And these need to be valid priorities. Why do we need to validate play as adults? Children need to play. This is a given. Adults need to play. This is not a given.
But it should be!

kids play2
I think we would all smile more and be a whole lot healthier and happier if we all just played more!

So off I go! See you at the playground.