The Power of Play: Allowing Your Inner Child to Become Your Greatest Ally

The first time I did a backflip off the high dive, I was 9.  Maybe it was the pressure of my peers or the August sun soaking up any doubt in my brain.  Either way, whatever the reason, leaping off a 15-foot diving board backward and upside down seemed like a perfectly good idea at the time.  Any common sense I had (or should have had) stopping me slipped away almost as fast as that summer before 5th grade.  That moment stays with me to this day, along with the memory of the sting of my back landing on the water.  Perhaps that back flip was not my most graceful moment, or the smartest decision I’ve ever made, but rather one made on bravery and curiosity.  That memory has carried me through many times in my life when the fierce reality of adulthood has overshadowed the free-spirit nature that has always been my greatest ally.

These days, I don’t have nearly as much fun as I used to.  If I’m not trying to calm the baby at 2am, I’m up at the crack of dawn preparing lunches and also my mind for the unpredictability of what the day may bring.  On a good day, I’ll get a shower in between the 4 loads of laundry and 2 hours of paperwork.  Dreams of doing backflips have turned to meeting deadlines and a seemingly endless to-do list of tasks that I’m certain won’t matter 3 days from now.  As much as I intend to live in the present each day, and listen to what my heart says is most important, I can’t help to think what will happen if I listen to my heart more than my head when it comes to how I live in my grown-up world?  What if it makes me a terrible professional, and even a worse mom?  But, what if it makes me a great one?!

It happens to all of us.  Somewhere along the road to achieving our dreams, our sense of play turns to playing it safe.  And it starts out small. We choose to study for the GMAT instead of grabbing drinks with a friend.  We stay home rather than attend our 20th high school reunion, and while some decisions may be valid, even wise, our sense of wonder is replaced with worry, causing us to lose that spark which inspired us to dream in the first place.

This summer, I chose to listen to my heart more.  In doing so, I rediscovered that spark and curiosity I was once so familiar with through the eyes of my 5-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son.  I played more than just playing it safe.  I dove into freezing cold water to go tubing when it would have been easier (and about 25 degrees warmer) to stay on the boat.  I danced in the backyard with my daughter before bedtime instead of doing the dishes.  I allowed my son to stay up after dark because my intuition told me that seeing his first firefly was far more important than his “schedule.”  I even (brace yourself parents) hired a sitter so I could attend an art show that I’ve been looking forward to seeing, alone! Most importantly, I’ve began listening more to my free-spirit nature….the same way I once did 25 years ago when dreams began on diving boards.

We all get stuck in the day-to-day, at one point or another in our lives. It’s easier and even necessary at times to play by the rules and play it safe. But while we’re busy playing grown-up, don’t ignore that child inside that just wants to simply play.  It doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 75, it is never too late to rediscover that spirit; the very heart of who you are.  Take advantage of the last few warm days of the season to play, and in no time you’re spirit will be doing back flips!

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Written by Susan Madden; member, mom, and guest blogger

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