I do not love to cook nor do I excel at baking; however, I do love the kitchen and the way it becomes the place to congregate in any home. Let’s face it, most of us spend a lot of time preparing food and cleaning up after it has been enjoyed.
In our house, the kitchen is where most of our sharing happens – especially now that our eating area is devoid of a table. It is the central place for homework, sword fights, dance shows, crafts, Batman art, crawling babies, Star Wars role plays, visiting with friends and family, and sometimes just flopping in our favorite chair to read or talk.
The other day, it was also the scene of a realization for me. I was making a pie (with store bought crust – I know what I’m not good at) and the kids were playing a game of ‘school’ in the empty eating area. It sounded something like this.
“How about I was the teacher and you were the student?”
“And how about I was the student who pretends I’m Batman?”
“And how about you were fighting on the playground and you got in trouble?”
“And how about after Math it was second recess and we got to go play outside again?”
“And how about before you went outside you had to line up? Class! It’s time to line up!” (singing teacher voice)
“And how about when we lined up you saw that I was really Batman?”
And on it went – you get the gist. They often play like this and I frequently hear their friends play with them like this. What struck me as I focused on what they were saying was that they were spending more of their play time setting down how they would play rather than just playing.
When I hear them play like this I will sometimes suggest that they have made enough rules and they should just get on with the game, to which they usually stare silently at me and carry on with laying out their expectations of each other. This afternoon I took the advice of many teachers and turned inward to see where what I was seeing in these two precious innocent people was also in me. Not to judge myself or their game, but to understand.
I didn’t have to look too far to discover that as adults, we are really good at living and playing by a lot of rules and expectations assigned to us by others. In fact, so many of the activities I engage in outside of my day job are a result of this.
Think about it. The adult world has set expectations for what respectable families should look like, what elements make up a successful career or person, what good parents do with their kids, what is considered attractive in terms of physical appearance, what is socially acceptable to share with people and so on. Then we all run around like crazy people trying to live up to what we think the rules of the game are.
I’m not talking about laws or the basic provisions of life for our family, but rather the tasks we engage in (and sometimes don’t engage in) that don’t truly make any difference to anyone. Do these rules reflect our authentic selves? Do they honor who and how we love? There are exceptions, but most of the time the answer is no.
I was witness to a perfect example of this a few days ago. I was having a conversation on Halloween with a group of women and we were talking about the excitement of our kids and their costumes when one of the parents groaned and complained about being tired. She then shared that she was up at 4:30 that morning making very messy complicated Halloween treats for her child’s class because she didn’t want to be seen as a ‘bad‘ mother who never contributes anything home made. She said it jokingly, but underneath you could tell she didn’t find it funny. This is a woman whose ‘day job’ is to keep people safe from all sorts of ugliness (sometimes causing her to be called in during the middle of the night) and yet she feels guilty because she doesn’t regularly send baking to school. Seriously.
When we do things from a source that I call ‘should‘ it robs us of the joy and expansion we get from giving something to someone else. If my colleague did this for her child only because it brought the child joy she would have gladly risen at that early hour. But unfortunately, it wasn’t. Her actions seemed to be inspired by guilt that arose from expectations of other adults.
I have been there, I have done that. We all have.
This week my goal is to consider every action I engage in and to question for whom and why I am doing it. If it doesn’t come from a place of love for myself or others, it’s not happening. In letting go of a lot of my ‘should’s‘, I hope Batman and his teacher will see that life is so much more joyful when we break away from some of the rules and simply play!
I encourage you to do some of your own evaluating this week. Are your days filled with tasks and activities that aren’t fulfilling and seem to serve no greater good? Do you spend your time acting and behaving in an inauthentic way simply because you feel like you have to? Share your thoughts below.
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As always, thank-you for sharing your love with me – it is appreciated!