I remembered how to play with my kid today

or how I became the monster truck sand squasher of the universe.

I’m not sure when it happened. Somewhere between sweet baby number 1 and sweet baby number 5, this mama forgot how to play. It was a slow fade. In fact, it was so lost in small doses that I didn’t really notice that my ability was gone. Oh sure, I could still sit for a minute or two to help build a block tower or run a marble down a track a couple of times while simultaneously creating a dinner menu in my brain or processing the pros and cons of the latest math curriculum I looked at. I got really good at sounding very enthusiastic while saying “Oh, cool!” and “That’s awesome!” the hundred times a day my kids wanted to show me what they were playing and trying to convince myself that they were perfectly content with my approval denying the obvious fact that they were actually inviting me in. On occasion my children could talk me into sitting under the giant oak tree for a bit to watch them jump on the trampoline and, maybe, just maybe I would join them on it only long enough to lie down and stare at the blue sky and wish I could just fall asleep. I can’t remember the last time I actually jumped on it, though…even once. To lessen the guilt that I carried I would throw in some crazy mom moments here and there by surprising them with a random idea of fun and really try to play but it always ended much sooner than I know they would have liked and it felt unnatural and completely boring to me despite my feeble attempts at making it look like I was having fun.

My mothering was observational. I was a spectator as I did all of the important work of keeping them fed, clothed, educated and somewhat (ok…barely) clean. Motherhood is work and a lot of it  I have been entrusted to grow 5 slobbery babies into intelligent, functioning, responsible members of society and I take that job very seriously. Albeit, sometimes too seriously. I am a chronic over-thinker, over-analyzer and over-worrier. Spending my days lost in those aspects of myself turned me into stressed out, anxiety ridden, burned out robot mom…just going through all the daily grind of keeping my humans alive while simultaneously believing that it was never enough and that I was failing miserably at the one job in life that I really REALLY wanted to get right. In fact, I was failing. I was failing hard. I was failing to do the one thing that my kids needed more than anything. I was failing at having fun with them. I was failing at enjoying them. I was too busy trying to do this mama thing right that I forgot how beautifully amazing and enjoyable that these dear children o’mine are when I just slow down and really spend time with them doing what they like to do.

Yes, motherhood is work but it is also full of good stuff. I get to hang out with the coolest 5 people that I know (no offense, all parents know that their kids are the best kids out there, hands down…right?) I, of course, knew this all along. I also knew that I wasn’t playing enough. I wasn’t stopping enough. I wasn’t slowing down enough. I wasn’t seeeeeeeing enough. When James and I began our nearly 3 year discussion on doing this crazy life hack this yearning for seeing, hearing, feeling, connecting and playing with our children was one of our biggest pushes for jumping into the idea. We kept trying to find that parenting sweet spot but, for us, we couldn’t break out of the habits so ingrained in us over the years and knew that a radical shift was due. And so we did.

It was 3 weeks ago today that we left our hometown. It has been 3 weeks of learning to stop and grab the moment with my kids. It has been so good. Some days I find myself retreating into busy but more and more I have found myself opening up and giving into their invitations to play. The guilt is beginning to dissipate and I believe I’m slowly starting to feel like I’m finally becoming the mother I want to be..the engaged mother…not the spectator mother. I am not there yet but there is a new way welling up inside of me. It began with the deep desperate desire for a change, that ultimately led to a complete and utter shake up of my everyday habits and into a place of open space to allow the change to occur.

Even with this internal shift going on, though, I still have found that, most of the time, I have to talk myself into playing…especially with the wee-est of them all. That is, until today…it happened…breakthrough…a crack in the hardness of a long held resistance. I found myself literally lost in play. Lost. When I came to my senses I suddenly realized that I was having so much fun and that something that had been hidden for so very long was finally found. I was playing and not in that half-hearted mind on a million other things and crossing it off the good mom checklist like so many times before but in a woohoo I’m getting sand all over me and people probably think I’m a lunatic and I don’t care cause I’m having such a good time crashing monster trucks into sandcastles kind of way. I was keenly aware of how amazing the wet sand felt between my fingers. Instead of thinking about how I was going to get all of that sand off of everyone and everything and how the bathtub would clog and we would have sand in our sheets for a week. It was a moment that I, honestly, haven’t fully experienced in years and it filled my soul right up.

This new lifestyle we have embraced is full of unknowns. It is full of hope and dreams and fears and hard stuff. It feels shaky. It feels exhilarating. My comfort zones have all but disappeared and some days that makes me want to run right back to Asheville and find them again STAT. Today, though, was not one of those days. Today, was one of the days that I seem to find “out here” more and more. A day of new perspective. A day of we’re really gonna be ok. Today, I remembered how to play.