Playtime in the vineyard with Christy and Steph.

My daughter liberated me from the tedium of tasks last week, tipping the balance between work and play on its head! Every year Christy comes to visit on her birthday, which conveniently falls the day after July 4th holiday. It’s a time of year when we reflect back on a little bag full of firecrackers that my husband bought to celebrate our brand new names, Mommy and Daddy. Labor started on the 4th so anticipation was high, but turns out she didn’t want to share the holiday after all.

Every year Christy picks a new theme to celebrate her birth and goes all out. Last year it was “rainbows”, the year before, “the 80’s”. She’s a photographer so naturally has great ideas, but this time she was the subject of her own photoshoot so brother Jesse took her place behind the camera. This year’s theme, “leopards”, had us scouring thrift stops to collect all things jungly: dresses, hats, handbags, scarves, and very high heels. A vineyard nearby welcomed our unique birthday celebration.


Brother Jesse about to get the perfect shot!

Mom and Dad just watched with smiles and an outdated camera to capture the photographer in action. And, to watch our daughter hobble in heals up and down rows of grape vines searching for the perfect toasting spot. These two silly women didn’t stop giggling long enough to notice any spider webs in their path, and practical mom wasn’t about to interrupt the fun.

But this was more than just fun, this was play… and she’s good at it! Fun is going on a picnic or camping or vacationing in Costa Rica. Play is when you can be absurd or silly, and laugh til you cry. Play is creative.

I’ve often pondered the difference between these two words in meager attempts to pull myself out work mode. In my head, there’s a scale with satisfaction at one end, play at the other, and many moods in between: contentment, enjoyment, fun, joy, happiness, delight. My bliss would be “serenity”: the freedom to be insanely playful along with the wisdom not to waste precious time with worry.

Making Time For Play Gives Your Brain the Rest it Deserves

Life is serious business sometimes and that seems wrong. I still don’t get why it’s so hard to get my nose off the grindstone. Apparently I’m addicted to my ongoing list of to-do’s, as if my worth was defined by my daily accomplishments. This is silly and I know it, so why can’t I just can’t stop? It sounds so simple, and yet… people are still smoking!

I remember a fitting paragraph from my first book, A Patchwork of Comforts: We seldom hear the word play when we talk about grown-ups; children play, adults enjoy recreation. People whisper in disgust, “When will she ever grow up?” when they see us having too much fun, or buying dinner at a restaurant too often instead of cooking our own. But that’s the whole point; ignoring responsibility defines play.

My children know how to have fun and I admire that. The ability to put your worries on the shelf for a time is a enviable gift. They both have the good sense of when to relax and I’m taking lessons.

SECRET: Start the “fun habit” by being business-like about it. Assign a day– or an hour to start–and put something that you love to do on the calendar like you would a doctor’s appointment. The notion of forced play seems kinda crazy, but a new habit takes practice before it comes naturally.