Play, Damn You! It’s Serious Business

Sep 24

It's a box! Smile!

I remember once…
when I was little?

My twin brother and I were given that dreaded task of Cleaning Our Room.  (I’m sure we were asked to do that more than once, but it’s this one particular time that I remember.)

I hated that task, Cleaning Our Room.  I wasn’t very good at it.

I’ve never liked doing things I wasn’t good at.

What I was good at? Playing. Following rules of a game.  Pretending.  Imagining.

So I had this totally Awesomeapottamus of an idea.  Why didn’t we turn cleaning our rooms into a game? Like, we could pretend boxes were train cars, and see who could get the most cargo (stuff in the room) sorted onto the the right train cars?

I thought it rocked. I was already to break out the crayons and draw wheels and doors and hobos all over the boxes.

I don’t remember my brother’s reaction, but he probably threw something at me.  I do remember Mom’s reaction – she looked at me like I was crazy, decided I was trying to get out of work, and took the boxes away.

So I didn’t get to play the Cleaning Train Game.

I always felt like it was such a missed opportunity.

Now that I’m All Growed Up (*cough*) I realize that it was, in part, a personality thing.  My favorite temperament profiling thing suggests I have a big dose of Sanguine, which is motivated by a need for fun fun fun.

The Cuteness. She haz it!

Mom is a Choleric – she’s all about the serious and keeping things in control.  A 5 year old who wants to clean her room by playing Choo-Choo Train?  Yeah.  Not properly in control. I didn’t exactly fit Mom’s idea of how-things-should-be.

Don’t worry, I did get plenty of playtime.  It was just separate from the serious-business-of-cleaning, which mostly explains why I’m such a lousy house-keeper.

But apparently? Metaphor Mouse was my childhood invisible friend, which explains a lot about how I wound up running a Circus.  (Metaphor Mouse is a havi-ism.  You can meet him here)


This week? I found out that nearly everything I assumed about the purpose of play? It’s probably wrong. Especially the part about play having a discernible “purpose”.

See, I’d always gone along with the popular assumption that childhood games are about learning development, practice for grown up tasks, teaching moments, and so on.

And sure, they can (and often are) those things.

But… well… here.  Watch this.

For those of you who can’t be bothered with video (like me, most of the time) Here’s a quick summary.

Play is important for your brain. Play does things to the brain. Cool things. Things science doesn’t really understand.  It’s important for development, it’s important for growth, it’s important for… erm.. well.. it’s important, dammit!

Regardless of age, regardless of temperament, we all need some playtime in our lives.

Which reminds me of Elissa’s Little Red Hen, in the Circus Parade, who rediscovered playtime didn’t have to be related to her work. It could just be for the sake of play, alone.

And you know what?

I think I’m going to figure out how to make a Circus Train of Cleaning. I’ll definitely draw a Little Red Hen on it.

And maybe an Awesomeapottamus.

Argh!! Attack of the Killer Smiley Box!How do you play? Do make up an excuses for it,  (which is perfectly ok, btw) or easily abandon yourself to it without thought? Does it make you feel guilty, or free? What was your favorite childhood game? Ramble away!


  1. I think I play more, now, as an adult, than I did as a child.

    I grew up mostly around adults (my cousins were all teenagers when I was a baby & there’s an 7 year gap between me & my brothers). By age 8 things had gone a pear-shaped and I spent more time with my nose in a book, escaping, or studying for when I would be a grown-up, thinking out scenes in my head so I’d be prepared if any of those good or (mostly) bad/tragic things happened.

    I’m wracking my brain trying to think of something to make that last statement less awkward, lol. I remember a wind-up train that was clear with brightly-colored gears so you could see how it worked. And I would sometimes play grocery store, back when there were still price stickers on everything, with Mom’s calculator as my cash register.

    And I still have flashbacks about cleaning my room–I figured out a few months ago my complex about not being able to clean when anyone was around (house has to be empty of other people) is directly related to the time Mom didn’t agree with my closet organizing ideas (age 12ish?) and starting throwing stuff across the room (I distinctly remember ducking a roller skate & a Barbie McDonalds) in frustration. Later years she just gave up and when I’d decide to do it on my own I’d invariably find a book that I ended up re-reading, sitting in the midst of the clutter.

    Now, though, sometimes I just go find the crayons and coloring books or pick up a deck of cards. Put in a silly movie or read a non-fiction book. It may not be rough & tumble play but it still works.

    • Tori Deaux /

      I’ve been thinking about this since you wrote it, Scraps. And it makes perfect sense to me. I was precocious, too grown up, and always fretting over what/ifs — but I also had a twin brother to balance all that with a permanent playmate. We did a lot of playing pretend between our fights. I think maybe that was a really good thing.

      I’m also thinking that maybe, all that reading probably counts as a sort of play, too… I’d love to know what the play-experts think of that.

  2. The circus parade DEF needs an Awesomeapottamus in it! With lots of glitter on its saddle and nose horn! Can I be the crazy contortionist/dancer who balances in impossible poses on top?

    The FlyLady always says if you make it fun it will get done and would have a lot to say about your mom having “the right way” to do it. Fiddlesticks, I say!

    Good job miss!

    • Tori Deaux /

      Hmmm.. I wonder if @RedHeadWriting would loan us her critter for special performances, so you can dance upon its back, in a fabulous hat?

  3. oh i was truly AWFUL at cleaning my room.
    in fact, my complete lack of order was half the reason i started dating my boyfriend. (okay, not actually half, but really was something i noticed & appreciated)- coming from a messy house (my parents weren’t big cleaners either), i realized it’s important to have systems and when you are not-so talented at a certain area (ahem, order?) it’s totally okay to bring in a friend who does know how to rock the list-making, re-arranging lifestyle! or whatever you might be currently wishing you were more inclined to… 😉

    • Tori Deaux /

      I (sadly) went the other direction with choosing a partner. I picked someone who I didn’t think would judge me for the cleaning-organizing-disability. Erm. Yeah. NOT the best idea, there (she said, looking around the completely disorganized, messy house)