What was your favorite part about childhood? Mud pies? Make believe? Dressing up? Climbing trees? Running for no reason? Capture the flag? Sidewalk chalk? Forts? All these activities share something in common: unbridled freedom, creativity, and fun!
If I had one phrase to capture my early childhood it would be: “Do you want to come out and play?” That simple question began many adventures. In Chinese, the word 玩 wan means to play. I would often have my students or friends ask me if I wanted to go play on the weekends before I understood Chinese. I explained to them that when translated into English, this phrase sounds strange. “Only children use that phrase,” I said. “Adults or teenagers set appointments. We hang out. We don’t play.”
Well, why not? As adults, how do we rob ourselves by trading in our Forrest Gump “I just felt like running…” runs for timed jogs with heart rate monitors? Brainstorming sessions rather than an afternoon of make believe. Organized football instead of tag. Rock climbing instead of tree climbing. Halloween as the only acceptable day to play dress up. Don’t get me wrong, I love rock climbing, runs, Halloween, and brainstorming, but is there a cost to structuring fun?
Some say it is a sign of maturity that we give up parts of ourselves to transition into adulthood. There is a balance. Perhaps we can leave the “childish” parts of ourselves while having the courage to keep the “child-like” sense of imagination, adventure, and spontaneity. One of my favorite aspects of my Grandmother was that she never seemed old to me. Even on her 100th birthday, her eyes still sparkled with youth, playfulness, and joy.
In this spirit, I am honoring my upcoming birthday as a 20-something by hosting a giant capture the flag game in the park, costumes included! The pink tutu has been bought. Water guns and balloons may also make an appearance, and the guest list is open to everyone.
Who wants to come out and play?