We found the perfect thing. The perfect way to connect with our girls. And their friends. And the random other kids at the park. Once a week, for one hour, we play. Not the tedious make-believe play with tiny, plastic toys that have heads too large for their bodies. Not the weird knock-knock joke play that doesn’t make any sense, but big, rowdy, run around outside play. Laughing, sweating, running play. Play that even the non-sporty among us can revel in. There is a role for everyone. It’s called Tuesday Night Sports Club, and it rocks!
It started when school ended with a small group of goofy parents and a slightly larger group of uncertain kids. We invited our friends and their kids to play with us and then we showed up every Tuesday at 5 p.m. When the weather isn’t oppressive and when it isn’t too dark. (Though there has been discussion that Tuesday Night Sports Club in the dark would be loads of fun.) Eventually it got bigger and bigger, more kids more parents. Kids we didn’t know, parents we only knew peripherally.
It grew because playing is fun.
The first few Tuesdays the dads played and the mamas sat on a blanket under ‘Our Tree’ (yes, I capitalized that on purpose. That’s how much we love ‘Our Park.’) We chit chatted, and drank wine. But after the first few Tuesdays, I couldn’t resist playing. Even though I was tired and the pull to just sit with the other moms was strong, the pull to play was stronger. Crazy right?! But it was the best decision I made.
We play Kick the Can, Capture the Flag, Ghost in the Graveyard, and the ever-popular and ridiculous Running Bases. When we’re playing we’re all equals, we’re teammates, and we’re enemies (in the very best sense of the word) with our children. It’s just play. It’s the only time I have found in my almost ten years of parenting when there is no hierarchy. We’re equals. And it is so perfectly awesome!
We don’t lay out the rules (though we explain how games are played), we don’t make one person in charge, and the parents don’t boss the kids around. We just play. A grown up usually divides us if it’s a team game, and defines the boundaries of each game. A grown up will provide band-aids for skinned knees. (Although, in truth, I am bearing a scar on my left knee from the worst skinned knee of last season’s Tuesday Night Sports Club. Equals. See?)
Play is an exceptionally important part of human development (the research says so!) and our children are increasingly losing the ability to just play. Be it because we have over-scheduled them, because they would rather stay inside and play Xbox or watch TV, or because we’re worried that if they are unleashed and run around like wild animals they’ll get hurt. Or because we don’t think it’s safe for them to ramble around on their own creating their own teams and their own games. Whatever the reason, they’re not playing, and we have stopped playing. Because, well, we’re adulting. But here’s what I know. For one hour every Tuesday, you should play. Leave work early, order pizza instead of cooking, and don’t sit on the blanket. Just PLAY!