Family · Mom Life · Toddlerhood

Playing: The Lost Art of Parenting

One of the most amazing things about beach days is seeing how excited my children are. Until this week, our beach days have been relatively been relatively secluded. We normally pick beaches that are out of the way and go on cooler days (and on days like Wednesday) so there is never that many other people. Until this week. This week we decided to go to the beach on a Saturday when it was 90 degrees out. Needless to say, It was packed. We found our little spot on the sand and staked it out.  We set up our beach tent, got out our sand castle buckets, and I dug a hole in the sand and filled it with water. Soon enough The girls had a sand castle village, that was being terrorized by Alice-o-saurous as fast as it was being built. And I was covered in sand from head to toe (legitimately, Alice threw a bucket of sand down my dress).

This is when I began to look around. The family in front of us had lawn chairs, and coolers, and a radio. They were gabbing away, occasionally yelling for their kids to come back. The group next to us were 3 teenagers who were chain-smoking cigarets while trying to look cool. And soon enough our kids were joined by a gang of 4 more kids all around their age, with parents parked off of the beach at picnic tables. I realized I was the only adult that was covered in sand. The only one to be sitting on the sand without a chair or a towel. Certainly, the only one encouraging their children to make and jump in puddles and not caring if they splashed me.

I felt very self-conscious. As much as I would like to be (and pretend to be) I’m not a self-confident person. Me and those teens had something in common, I want to be perceived as the “cool kid”. But I had to stop and ask myself, who exactly were the “cool kids”? Are there such things as cool moms? And are they the group I was really trying to impress? I didn’t know the answer to any of these questions. Truth is, I’ve felt a little out of touch with who I want to impress. My husband and I are both more of the loner type. I don’t, and have never, made friends easily. I don’t have a tribe, or clan, or even neighbors to Keep up with the Joneses. Really the only person I have that I am trying to keep up with is the fictitious “They” that lives in my head. “They” are the parents who have it all together, the ones who make dinner every night, and whose kids are well-behaved and polite. “They” would never think about letting their children have a bag of chips for breakfast because they are too tired to get up. Or let their kids wear PJs all day to avoid making extra laundry. “They” have this whole work/life balance figured out and still manage to be put together and in impeccable shape.

“They” do not exist.

What does exist is me. Covered in sand. Swimming in clothes because I don’t own a bathing suit that fits me. Soaking wet. Playing with my children.

There isn’t enough play. I don’t want to be the parent that watches their kids play. I want to be down there, playing with them.  I want to cover them in sand and have them cover me. I want to help my kids build sand castles and dig holes. I had more fun with my kids than I could ever imagine. I hope that I set a good model for them to enjoy mud and enjoy play. Once I stopped worrying about trying to impress, I was able to let go, and actually impress those who matter, my two wonderful children.

This is just my story, but my hope is that it will encourage you to get down and play. Don’t be afraid to get dirty. Don’t be afraid of a little sand in your eye.


If you want more Advice on ways to incorporate Playing, please see: The How to Guide: 3 Ways to Incorporate Play


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