Play is a Child’s Work

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Play is a Child’s Work

How Their Childhood Dreams can Turn into Grown Up Reality

I‘m wondering how many of you are raising little boys who want to grow up to be an astronaut, or a cowboy, a baseball player or a fireman? Or maybe you have a sweet little girl who pictures herself as a princess or a doctor or a circus performer?  At our house, as we were raising four very creative children, those childhood dreams changed daily and usually required a huge repertoire of dress up clothes, stuffed animals, dirty jeans, kitchen props and sports equipment (in other words: huge messes). Being the neat nick that I am, I had to bite my tongue, sit on my hands and force a smile because everything in me wanted to scream, “Settle down, quit making so much noise and put that stuff away!!”  Fortunately, someone very wise told me early on in my parenting years that “play is a child’s work” and those times of pretending, dressing up, acting out, and role playing are essential to children as they process and explore who they are and what they can become. In other words, this is what kids are supposed to be doing and it might get messy!  Now that our kids are actually grown up, I can see how those childhood dreams have translated into grown up reality.  -Our little girl who made up plays, told stories, talked non-stop and was generally in  la-la land has grown up to be a very fun mom and a great writer.  -Our little boy who hummed, drummed and strummed his way through childhood and whose favorite DVD was Learn the Capitals of the United States has grown up to be a very smart, nerdish academic, pastor and musician.  -Our other little girl who painstakingly took care of every doll and stuffed animal in the house and was there with love and comfort when someone hurt themselves is now a nurse practitioner.  -Our youngest son, who was the protector of his siblings, rarely shed a tear, has more scars and knocked out teeth than the entire neighborhood combined is a fire fighter.  And now, every once in a while, as I look at my adult children, I see the little boy or girl they used to be surrounded by the messiness of play and my heart aches a little bit. Those were good days and now they are gone. To all of you young moms out there: enjoy the mess, embrace the pretending, encourage your children to play and forget about ever finding your pancake turner. You never know which childhood dream is going to turn into their grown up reality.

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