Do you play?
If so, how, when, where, why, and with whom?
What do you think of when you hear the word play?
Is it a single activity, or a wild array of options?
A structured garden, or a wild meadow?
Can you say or write the word ‘play’ in another language?
What good is play?
Is it possible to play mindfully?
What would that look like?
What would a life centered around play – one where play is the goal of the family, look like?
Is that possible?
Is it a good idea, or a disaster waiting to happen?
“Mom Played A Video Game All Night Long!”
It’ s true. I totally did that last night. The game was To the Moon, and I’m not feeling even a little guilty for ‘frittering my life away’ as my mother might put it – because I didn’t. I played that game mindfully. It was an investment in the future, with immediate benefits in the present.
I played because my son, 14, asked me to; It was on his birthday wish list. In a social culture where so many people feel disconnected and at odds with their teens, my son invited me to share in an important part of his life. Accepting added depth to our relationship – as mother and son, and as humans.
I played the game straight through because he said it would be best that way. My son is an avid gamer, and knows me well. We spend the majority of time in close proximity to one another, and our family paradigm is egalitarian. Both children have a great deal of autonomy. I consciously engage with them as a whole person, rather than simply through the role of ‘Mom’. Because he knows me, I trusted his assessment. Trust and knowledge of the other is an important component in building and maintaining strong relationships.
I played when I did because that’s when I could give myself fully to the experience. My son’s birthday is in early September; it’s early December now. When he asked, I was already committed to intensive writing projects through November. I knew I’d be impatient and easily frustrated if I tried to play then. I’m not the gamer my son is; I’m a writer, and writing is my absolute favorite pastime. Being honest with him and myself honored his desire for me to play, and my own creative passion. Healthy relationships are a delicate dance of self and other.
I set aside my other projects to play. We decided I’d play on Saturday. I needed to postpone by a day because his sister received an impromptu invitation; he was willing to wait. I made it a priority to honor the amended date. He was flexible and generous when I needed to change my plans. I treated the commitment I made to him the same way I would treat an appointment with another adult. I respected my son – the boy he is, and the man he is swiftly becoming – and he respected that motherhood comes with other, sometimes unpredictable, obligations. Mutual respect and willingness to work together are essential for good relationships with others, all through life.
I made the game my priority. I announced my intentions and set things up so I could give the time freely. It’s a long and challenging game; my son wasn’t able to stay awake long enough to see me finish, but I promised I would. And so I did – even when I got stuck and had no idea what to do next; even when my thick, non-gaming fingers got all tangled up trying to blast potted plants at Zombievas while simultaneously navigating a school corridor, using eight letter and arrow keys on his small keyboard. I didn’t give up until I was finished. I did what I said I would do; I kept my word, and followed through on my promises with action – vital in all relationships.
I played with an open mind. Adults often discount the interests and passions of children as frivolous and unimportant. My mother scorned my fascination with Star Trek. She was sure she knew what it was all about, and her mind was closed to any other way of seeing things. By letting myself be open to learning why my son loves this game, I proved that his interests matter to me, and that I want to know what he loves, and understand it if I can. Healthy relationships thrive on understanding and acceptance.
I used break times wisely. When I started to get frustrated, tense, achy, or restless, I got up and moved. I did dishes and laundry, tidied up, swept floors, fed critters and myself, and showered. Each time I came back to the game with renewed energy, and a new perspective. Those efforts kept me playing in comfort, got me a little exercise, gave me a source of accomplishment aside from game play, and gave my family a more pleasant home to wake up to, as well. Tending well to others, and ourselves, makes for stronger and more loving relationships.
Because I played, we share a new conversational landscape. Going back to the disconnect between many adolescents and adults, this is something I find invaluable. To the Moon is a rich, textured story game layered with many versions of human experience. Some of the subject matter touches on our own family experiences. We now have a new context for deeply personal sharing on sensitive topics. A new facet of connection is open between us. Healthy relationships grow with shared experience.
So, yes, I did in fact play a video game all night long. And I’m a far better mother because of it!
How has play deepened your relationships?
I’d love to hear about it!
Share your links, stories, images, thoughts, or perspectives below – our relationship will benefit! =D
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