Sunday, June 8, 2014

Time to play

My youngest has been increasingly fidgety and disruptive at bedtime over the past few weeks. Unwilling to let her Dad take a turn of putting her in, she has clung to me, interrupting the older girls' chapter book reading with me, and bursting forth with grizzly, not quite tantrums but close, fits of impassioned angst.

Tonight I think we may have got to the bottom of what's been going on for her. Lying in my bed, irritable tears on her cheeks, she said, "I never get to play with you anymore!"

As soon as she said it, the phrase bit into me with the ring of truth. I knew exactly what she was talking about, and I knew she was right. Opportunities for play, for her and I, have been restricted for the past year, since I've been working fulltime, and close to nonexistent since she started school in February.

Oh, I still make time to read with all my kids, to go to the park, take walks with the dog, help with homework, talk, cook together. I sit down every now and then to do a crossword or play chess with the elder two. It's been far, far too long, though, since my littlest and I just played together - whether a board or card game, with her blocks, with her paints, with her plastic animals, inside or outside, anyway at all.

To some extent this is just a function of the way our lives work at this very intense phase, but it must have been something that I, too, have been subconsciously mourning, because I felt such an overpowering rush of sadness and regret at her words. I also have felt the lack of playful connection and miss it, intensely, just as I miss having personal time during the week, my writing life, and being able to manage my house in the way I would ideally wish to. I miss being embedded in my community, I miss the many volunteering things I have had to give up, I miss the pleasures and surprises of ad hocery that a less structured life brought.

Time does not stand still and I cannot return to the slow-molasses days of seven or eight years ago, where my elder two were toddlers and every day stretched infinite. I am also careful to remember, in this, that the endlessness of days and play was in its own way exhausting; I don't kid myself that it's a lost nirvana I'm recalling.

The truth is, working fulltime away from the home is not what I ideally want to be doing. At this very moment in time, it's serving an important financial purpose for us, and I know I need to stick with it yet awhile. It's conversations like this, though, that bring home sharply to me all that it really costs me, to go to work every day.

Tomorrow morning, the youngest and I are going to play together; we've made a plan to join forces after breakfast and find a game that both of us want to play. It won't in itself salve everything, but it's a start, and starts must be made if ends are ever to be achieved. Tomorrow I'll play with my girl and try to be at peace with the fact that this is a rarity in our busy, scheduled daily lives.

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