Play

Briana and Deb came on a mother-daughter retreat with us several years ago. On Saturday afternoon, we had free time to go for a walk, sit on the dock, or play in the yard. Briana and Deb headed straight for the tetherball pole.

Briana was fourteen at the time—energetic, vivacious, and fiercely competitive. Her mom, Deb, was a behind-the-scenes kind of mom. She was a steady source of support and encouragement for all of Briana's endeavors —but things changed with tetherball.

Deb and Briana started whopping that ball back and forth, back and forth, till both of them were breathing hard. We're actually not sure if they were breathing hard from exertion or from laughter. We all saw a side of Deb that day we had never seen before — including Briana.

This is not the norm for many parents. I (Sissy) remember having a friend over to play in grade school. We sat down on the floor to play Candy Land, and my mom sat down with us. My friend whispered, "Why is your mom on the floor?" When I told her she was going to play with us, my friend was shocked. She said her mom never played games with her and would certainly not sit on the floor.

My friend's mom lived as many parents do. You swim with your daughter while you're teaching her, but then you stop getting in the pool. You snow ski with her to show her how, and then you're ready to call it a day. You play tennis with her but concentrate more on her swing than on your enjoyment of the game.

In teaching girls to have fun, you forget to have fun yourself. You lose your own sense of play in creating playful opportunities for them. It is part of your job to create and to teach, but it is also your job to rest, relax, and play.

When Deb sent that tetherball right back to Briana as hard as Briana had hit it, Briana was surprised. She was used to her mom enjoying her. But as Deb's own playful spirit came to life, she invited Briana to enjoy her back. In those moments, Briana's mom became more than just her steady, supportive mom. She became her own person.

You don't have to invite her to enjoy you in ways that don't fit who you are. part of the reason for the invitation is for her to see your personality. Remember what you loved, maybe even before you had children. Drive her to the park you used to play in as a girl and swing with her. If you are snow skiing together, be the one to create a path through the trees. Race her to the car when you're leaving the mall.

Enjoy your daughter, but let her enjoy you, as well. My (Melissa's) mom has this kind of enjoyment down to an art. On birthdays and holidays she always invites us to enjoy her in ways that are creative and spontaneous. One Christmas we played Christmas carols on glasses filled with different levels of water. On birthdays we had treasure hunts to search for our gifts. Every year, every holiday, we would roll our eyes and say, "Oh, Mom." But secretly we loved it.

We loved the fact that our mom created something fun for us, for all of us to enjoy together. She didn't just watch from the sidelines. She played those glasses right along with us. We enjoyed the adventures. We enjoyed each other in the process. But mostly we enjoyed the creativity and playfulness that she invited us to be a part of.

As you invite them to enjoy, your children will often have the same "Oh, Mom" or "Oh, Dad" kind of responses, but secretly they will love it too. Our message in this chapter is simple: Don't take your daughter or yourself too seriously. Rest. Relax. And play. Look for those bare necessities. You all will listen, laugh, and enjoy each other more as a result.

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