Why We Should Play More and Adult Less

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My daughters and I were recently on a trip to Puerto Rico for a week, and during this visit, I had some very “come-to” moments about being a mom and how I’m raising my two girls.

Puerto Ricans are very, very family-oriented people. Every meal, moment, outing (anything to be honest) is spent with family. And not just immediate family but aunts, uncles, grandparents, even friends and their families. People are always surrounded and most of them work together in business as well.

Almost a year ago Puerto Rico was hit very hard by a large hurricane devastating a good chunk of the island. Many of the islanders fled to be stateside (having family scattered throughout) but surprisingly a lot stayed, and without water or power. They stayed because they had their families to care for and their pride.

I asked some Puerto Ricans why they stayed, and their responses were quite enlightening. “My family and I will be happy wherever we are even if we lost everything, as long as we are together.” Another said, “This is our island, we have to love and cherish it when it is at rock bottom just as we would our family.”

At least half of the island didn’t have power for over six months, roofs were ripped off, and many homes had tons of damage that just weren’t getting fixed until Puerto Ricans got together and fixed one another’s homes. No one expected that type of devastation (especially with the surrounding islands being even more destroyed). For months people didn’t know what to do or how to help. But Puerto Ricans rallied together, raised their PR flags high and became even more of a family. They did whatever they could with little to no supplies to take care of one another.

Raising our kids differently

With that being said, my story actually isn’t about a hurricane. It is about the Puerto Rican people and how we should be raising our kids similar to how they are raising their kids.

Most have small homes with lots of people in one house now, and they are so happy to have that. They actually PLAY with their kids all day long and include their children in cooking and other activities (cooking meals seems to be a constant all-day event there). They take family outings to the river or beach that last an entire day bringing loads of food and toys and pack-n-plays for the babies to rest in.

And when any meal is served, it’s a 4-course meal made to feed an army. My husband always tells me of the wives of the Puerto Rican men he works with that bring huge trays of rice, yucca, plantains, beans, meat and more for all the workers during lunchtime, just because they want to share a meal together and provide for everyone. I’m talking 10-15 men and women.

Making myself available

When we see these huge families playing together at every moment, I can’t help but feel guilty. I feel guilty for not playing with my daughters because I needed to fold laundry when clearly that’s all they want.

The moment I caught myself thinking a chore was more important than playing with my girls, I was quick to jump in the pool and play. And I mean really play. Throwing them around, laughing, dancing…they were having a blast and honestly so was I. No tantrums, no acting out for attention, they finally had my full attention and it made everyone truly happy.

It dawned on me that that’s all they wanted.

Their parents who always seem “too busy” or “too grown up” to get on their level and play, and I was doing just that. I felt so much relief and was actually able to relax. I didn’t think of the 80 other things I could have been doing. Nothing was more important than that moment of playing. I can’t even to tell you the last time I did that.

At home here in Charleston, I always feel a sense of urgency to get stuff done and constantly be on the move. I never make the time I need to play with my little girls. And their actions and outbursts for attention make that very clear. I know it’s hard to stop everything to spend time playing with our kids, and we as moms tend to overload ourselves both mentally and physically.

Since our return home I’ve made it a point to color, paint, swim, dance, and do everything they find fun. I’m right there doing it with them. My alone time (although much needed) is after they go to bed so they don’t watch me on a computer or phone. They don’t have to question where my mind and attention are because they know it’s on them.

I simply cannot tell you how much this has helped my head-strong four-year-old daughter and her behavior. She laughs more than she cries finally. And while I know this won’t be 100% all the time, at least I’m more aware of it now and can change it before tantrums erupt. Oh, and guess what? That laundry and those dishes will still be there. Your kids, however, they will be another day older.

What are your thoughts on playing more, adulting less? How do you make it happen in your household?