Child’s Play

(This post describes an event of 2009, as I fondly recall my children’s spring break/Easter holiday)…

Listen closely. That’s the sound of relief. A shameless sigh. A groan of gratitude. A wanton release of the pent up frustration I’ve felt as a mother ever since Frick and Frack (i.e. my wily second graders) made landfall for what seemed perpetuity. In truth, their recent spring break/Easter holiday lasted a mere seven days, but somehow it was suggestive of so much more.

Nevertheless, I survived and all is well. Routine has returned to this good house. Bedtimes and baths have been reinstated. A modicum of order has been restored. And much of my sanity, reclaimed. But even still, I stumble upon remnants of my children’s ever-widening sphere of influence—remnants for which I have been given specific instructions. “Don’t. Move. Anything. Mom.” The anything, of course, includes Easter baskets and eggs, Legos and Lincoln Logs, dominoes and dinosaurs, puzzles and Polly Pockets, Barbies and board games among other infinitely intrusive playthings that currently festoon my home. “We’re still playing with them.” It would also be inclusive of the masterfully created eggshell-soapsuds-coffee-cocoa-flour-splash-of-vanilla mixture (i.e. “our serious soup”) brewed in the kitchen sink during that infamous respite from the Land of Books and Pencils. Gak.

That said, in an extraordinarily weak moment I entered into an agreement with my daughters some time ago—one engineered specifically for the purpose of addressing the many and varied complaints I’ve voiced that involve their beloved toys and my complete and impassioned hatred of clutter. A binding-ish contract that also loosely defines the term “still” so that an obscene degree of latitude is then granted to the parties affected. More specifically, my charges could be asleep, on the soccer field, in the classroom or outside foraging for worms while technically described as “still playing” with whatever foolish tripe happens to be in the middle of my living room or sloshing around in the sink. So there it remains. Ad nauseam. Arrrrrg.

There is an upside, however. A bright side to my disaster-in-the-making. For seven glorious days and nights I was assigned a role other than Homework Nazi, Nag Queen and Merriment Wrecker—whose collective mission in life is to snuff out goodness and joy at every turn. Instead, I let my soon-to-be third graders lounge in PJ’s by day and linger outside in the dusk, long after the robins had disappeared into the thicket, dark and damp with approaching nightfall. I watched them dig in the dirt, climb trees and chase each other around in the cool grass, swords held high, exultant shouts filling the air. I tossed wiffle ball after wiffle ball until we could no longer track its blurred path and instead listened for the telltale crack of the bat and the familiar whir of the ball, reminding me of the vestiges of summer when we raced around the yard at sundown, deep into September, finally tucking away those precious bits of plastic in a corner of the garage—the place where they would winter seemingly forever.

What’s more, I spent some quality time indoors with my brood, allowing myself to become immersed within their imaginary world for a few delicious moments each day. Just for fun I assisted in the construction of countless works of genius (i.e. log homes with ramshackle roofs and rickety foundations). I learned the ins and outs of kid-logic for games like Guess Who and Concentration. Further, I eavesdropped on utterly priceless conversations featuring Littlest Pet Shop “people,” various stuffed animals and the sprawling harem of Barbies and Bratz dolls who reside here. Of course, this took me back to a time when my oldest made her shampoo bottles “talk” at the edge of the tub till her seemingly endless chatter dwindled, the water lost its warmth and her fingers and toes had grown whitish and wrinkled. Likewise, it made me smile to think the aforementioned dolls held similar discussions roughly 15 years ago, although no one had so much as envisioned those tawdry Bratz doll beasts. Perhaps it’s just as well.

Looking back on the week, I’m not so sure the death of structure was such a bad thing. There is something to be said for a less-than-jammed-to-the-hilt schedule, for a dearth of all-things-schoolish and for play that is free of boundaries and rife with spontaneity. Lounging around in PJ’s all day of course has its merit, too, giving rise to yet another great sigh of relief from this camp.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.notesfromplanetmom.com.

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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