Life's Seasons Speaks


February 22, 2023 Episode 107
Life's Seasons Speaks
Show Notes Transcript


Tina was a terrible sister (when she was little).  Hear a story that sounds awful, but is in fact accurate.  Poor Chris.  Poor Michael.  Who is Michael, you ask?  You'll want to listen to find out!

Today's episode talks about the importance of playtime in correlation with childhood development.  It's essential to having healthy, happier, less-stressed kids!  
WHY though, do we forget how important playtime is as we get older?  Why aren't adults still having playtime?  We NEED to spend time being creative, with no other purpose but to have fun doing it!


ACOUSTIC GUITAR # 1 by Jason Shaw
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I have to tell you about some time in my childhood, that certainly does not paint me as a good sister.  It is entirely accurate, but I did not get “sister of the year award”, that’s for sure.  I don’t think I was even in the running.

Now, when we were little, my brother had a friend named Michael.  And I was not kind to his friend, Michael.  In fact, I sat on Michael every chance I had, dropped Michael down the stairs on purpose but made it sound like it was an accident as I hollered, “Oh no, Michael are you ok?  I can’t believe I dropped you all the way down all the stairs”.  I threw Michael in the garbage.  In fact, I threw him right out the car window once, while the car was moving.  I was so fast unclipping the seat belt and rolling down the window and whipping his little body out with one hand.  And then I looked behind us as my brother sat in shock and I said, Oh no, Chris.  Michael got run over by the car behind us.  And my brother cried and cried as my mom rolled down her window and swooped her arm out and said, “Chris, he’s right here and he’s fine”.  Then darted her laser eyes through me, telepathically telling me to smarten up and quit making Chris cry by killing off his imaginary friend, again.

Ya, I know.  It literally was as bad as it sounds.  I was that terrible.  But let me say this… if you think I was mean and cruel to Chris… that doesn’t even compare to the wrath you’d get if YOU were mean and cruel to Chris.  It was completely a matter of “I can make my brother cry, but just you look out if you do”.

And those stories are fun when you get us up to high school years.  But they are not for today.  Maybe it’s best if they aren’t for any day.  And we’ll leave it at that.  But here’s your hint, Chris did ask me to tone it down or he’d never get a girlfriend.  All the girls were too scared to deal with his sister.  As it should have been.

Now, even though I pretty much ruined many of Chris’ playdates with Michael, he did have some good ones.  When he was hiding in his room with the door closed.  I know that.  Cause I could hear them talking and playing away.  I mean, I heard Chris.  Michael was much softer spoken and hard to hear, but they were both in there playing away together.

And this is normal for many kids to have an imaginary friend.  My grandma, who we called Meme, she wanted Chris to know it was normal and ok.  She went so far to normalize it that she told my brother she had an imaginary friend named Charlie.  I’ll forever remember the day that my meme threw herself on to the floor.  She scared me.  I thought she had fallen.  But she just got back up again telling my brother that Charlie liked to trip her sometimes.  Charlie was a little bugger.

I’ll never forget my grandmother going to those lengths to make my brother feel comfortable and normal.  

I especially thought it was wonderful of her because he was not normal.  And had every right to be uncomfortable.  Poor little guy.  Must be something wrong with him.  Must be inadequate, backwards, or have some kind of deficiency to some degree… having to make someone up to be his best friend.

Ok… fast forward 35 years and who needs to eat those thoughts now?

Yep, that’s right.  His wonderful big sister.  ME.

Have you had those moments though when your kids were little.  Did you watch them play or listen to them talking to themselves, their dolls, their boats in the bathtub, and think, “oh man, I hope they grow out of this.  I hope they find some real friends.  They must be lonely.  They must be scared of others.  They must be so shy.

Let me tell you what we know now. 

Those children who have imaginary friends or make friends with objects and communicate back and forth with them, they develop to be more creative and more socially competent, have better narrative language abilities, and have deeper understanding of cognitive theories and at a faster rate.  

So now, all y’all parents want to know where you can get an imaginary friend for your kids eh?  

Sorry, it doesn’t work like that, but other children who played less can and normally will develop in all these areas, just not as rapidly.

And I know what you’re thinking.  Man, I gotta meet Tina’s brother.  He must be a genius.  

He’s ok.  I guess.  I mean he won the board of governor’s award and was the valedictorian for his whole college.  Hardly means he’s a genius guys.  But ya, he’s kind of a big deal.

But we can’t just go thinking Chris is all that, because honestly, wasn’t this all thanks to Michael? Really?

And I have to tell you, Chris had a great valedictorian speech but did he once mention Michael? No, not once.  Shameful.

Don’t worry though.  Someone, not saying who, stood and gave a speech at his wedding, and you can sure bet that Michael was mentioned.  Ya he was!  In fact, that certain someone, who I have to say is amusingly fantastic, invited Michael to the wedding and surprised Chris with him as a special guest.

Chris looked very confused as the doors were opened for this special guest and it appeared that no one was there.  Chris quickly caught on though as the speech proceeded.

But now that I’m thinking of it, it was terrible of me not to invite Charlie.  Although we couldn’t be having people tripped on the dance floor.

Honestly, I can almost hear one of you asking me at this stage of the episode, “Tina, what’s the point?”

Well, it’s really just a simple reminder for us parents, grandparents, and caregivers… that play matters.

It matters much more in the grand scheme of things then we even understand.  

We have to, in this day especially, intentionally take the time to put away the iPads, turn the TV off and just play.  

We’ve come to devalue play over the years, and instead focus on technology as babysitters, entertainers and even teachers.  But I’m saying today that your child will develop wonderfully and more naturally and in the best ways with toys, teddy bears, and imaginary friends over computer games that teach math and spelling.

Play in fact is a child’s primary tool for dealing with stress.  We need to allow them to play, but beyond allowing, we need to encourage intrinsically motivated play.  And join them, especially when invited.

In other words, if a child hands you a play phone, you put it to your ear and say, “hello?”

When a child brings you a playdough hamburger, you bring it towards your face and say, “this is the most delicious hamburger I have ever tasted in my life”.

And when a child colors with you and makes the dog purple, you say, “I love purple dogs, what colour should I make mine?”

The American Academy of Pediatrics actually linked depression and anxiety in children to a lack of unstructured playtime.

Now that’s a big deal.  The academy recommends children spend at least 60 minutes a day in free play.

If you have a toddler, you might be saying, “no problem”.  That’s all they do.  They have made friends and play with everything from their toys to their cheerios.  

And I am happy to hear this.  But I do warn you.  It won’t last unless we are intentional about protecting that.

There wasn’t as much technology when my boys were really little, but it was coming out and it was impressive to them.  It need to be structured so that it wasn’t an option all the time.

Jesse had some dolls that he loved.  Three little boy dolls.  And their names were Peter, Peter, and Peter.  Which I appreciated because it was easier to remember.

What I didn’t always remember was that they were NOT dolls.  I once told Jesse as we were getting out of the vehicle, “grab your dolls”.  He very quickly corrected me saying, “they aren’t dolls.  Those are my kids”. So we gathered up Jesse’s kids and took Peter, Peter, and Peter into the house.

You’ll never know who I have tucked away in a drawer, waiting for Jesse to have a kid.  Or another kid maybe I should say.

No.  I do not have Michael in a drawer.  I’ve been cruel enough.  I’m pretty sure Chris has him.  No matter what he says.  I hear him talking to seemingly no one, in his office sometimes.  I bet it’s Michael.

So, am I saying that your kid is a better kid if they have an imaginary friend?  No.  Will they be better adults if they had one?  No.  I don’t think that’s the deciding factor.

But I think they will be happier, less stressed kids if they get the chance to play enough.  And if nothing else mattered, if nothing else was improved like creativity and language skills, and problem solving abilities etc., happier less stressed kids would still be enough wouldn’t it.

You bet it would.

You can go and look up all the scientific evidence that backs up and proves the links between play and brain activity.  You can see why play and dance and art is incorporated into therapies, be cause of what it unlocks and where in the body and the brain.

All of it is fascinating and just more and more proof as to why play is so vitally important for kids, their development and their over all health in all the areas of their lives.

So here is my question… Why do we stop?

Why do we stop playing?  And this question isn’t for everyone.  Some of y’all adults are still factoring playtime into your life.  And that’s exceptional.

No.  TV time and movies and Netflix marathons doesn’t count.  Relaxing time and play time is different.

My husband shoots arrows.  With a friend sometimes too.  His friend has a name and apparently he’s real but I have to tell you, I’ve never met him.  He could be imaginary.

Now that I think of it, I do hear my husband talking in the garage when he’s by himself.  And he does speak angrily with no one around that I can see when he’s fixing everything I break in the house, and the lawnmower, and the weed whipper and the 4-wheeler.  Maybe he’s talking to this “Jeff” I hear about.

I don’t know.  But I do know this.  Kids know what’s going on.  They naturally play.  And it’s good for them whether they know it or not.  They just do it.

And we need to learn from that.  We need to watch them and learn.  Join them… and on our own time, even without them – PLAY.

Why do you think adult coloring books became such a HUGE thing a few years back.  They sparked the childhood feelings of less stress and more pleasure while being creative.

And if you don’t like coloring… OK.  But you have to find something.  Something that is not about producing anything that is NEEDED.

It’s about pleasure.  Fun.  Pure and simple fun.

There are too many of us who have forgotten how to play and have fun.  We squeezed playtime out of our schedules and made more time to work.  We’ve made more time to produce results, telling ourselves that those results are necessary.

But they aren’t always necessary if we are honest.  And we know it.

My biggest regret is cleaning more than I played with my kids.  And now that I want to play with them, they are grown up and not just down the hall anymore.  They aren’t even down the road.

Don’t wait until you have to plan weeks in advance to get together with your loved ones to play and have fun.  Don’t wait for special occasions.  And please don’t wait until someone is available to join you either.

That doesn’t mean you have to learn to have fun all on your own, by yourself.  You could always have Michael over, or Charlie.  Maybe even Jeff!  Again, I don’t totally know about that one.

I’m talking to myself here as much as I am to anyone else.  

One.  Because that’s what I do.  I talk to myself all the time.  I don’t need an imaginary friend.  I’m my friend.  And I happen to give myself expert advice all the time.

And two, because I do not play nearly enough.  I’m not fantastic at sitting still, but those seem to be my two gears.  Parked, or full steam ahead in work mode.  I work at work.  I work at the laundry.  I work at cooking, cleaning, and even painting the walls or re-arranging the furniture – again.

Ian has never walked into a room without turning the lights on, because hey, that would be dangerous.  Who knows on any given day where the couch might be now.

And some of those things feel like fun to me.  But more than often I’m doing it for a result and not just for the fun of it.

So, I’m on a journey and a mission to figure out what might be fun.  And I think this might actually be difficult.  I’ve tried a lot of thing.  I haven’t like them.

I don’t like crafts, boardgames, being on teams of any kind, or shopping.  I don’t like baking.  I don’t even like cooking, but people keep getting hungry in my home.

I don’t love reading.  Especially since you pretty much need to sit still to do it.

I think I need help.  Not necessarily professionally.  I mean your help.

I’m totally encouraging you today to let your kid play!  Motivate them to play more.  And make sure you are getting in your playtime too.

Also though, send me some messages and let me know what you do to have fun.  I’m not just being nosey.  I need some more ideas to try.

Thank you in advance for helping me have more fun in life.  Thank you for still loving me after I told you about how I treated Michael when we were young.

If you see my brother anywhere, at any time, please ask him about his childhood friend Michael.  He’ll love it!  I promise the first thing you’ll see is a big smile.  And I’ll know you asked, cause he will get a hold of me shortly after.  I know it.

Have a great week my Life’s Seasons Speaks fam.  I’ll meet you back here next Wednesday.  Until then, good-bye for now, and we’ll speak again soon.