I spent the weekend with my two and six year old nephews. We did an awful lof of playing, tossing them onto the bed, chasing bad guys, building tents out of sheets, and taking on the playground. Nothing fills my heart more with love and joy than getting to step into their world, a world full of imagination and play, a world free to laugh and smile, whisper and scream, a world where the more wild and goofy you act, the more they love you.
I remember that world when I was young, before I created a filter to protect me from being judged. I remember building tent cities with my siblings, so many of us that we needed a city, not just one tent. We had that entire living room covered with blankets and sheets draped over stools, creating room after room for our enjoyment. We had a bank, a school, a store, bedrooms for naps, everything our young hearts thought we would need in a grown up world…and we would play for hours on end until mom got home and told us to clean up that mess, that mess that was our world for the day.
It’s interesting how creating a “tent” in a bedroom can create such an escape. My nephews and I seemed to travel thousands of miles and thousands of years away from that bedroom when we crawled into that tent; I know my siblings and I felt like pioneers colonizing the great frontier in our tent city (okay, we may have watched too much Little House on the Prairie back then). We were free to be and act however we wanted when we allowed our imaginations and our hearts’ desires to lead us.
I let my imagination and my heart be free this weekend with my nephews, most of the time. When we tackled the playground, I found myself back in the grown up world, watching over them, making sure they were safe. It’s an important role, but as I watched them run, jump, slide and swing, I found myself wishing I could do the same. My nephew called out to me to watch how high he could swing. I worried he could get hurt, and then remembered when I tried to swing so high, wind blowing my hair forward and back, using my whole body to push and pull for that extra height. I watched my nephew pushing and pulling, hair in his face and blown back, grinning ear to ear with dimples larger than life. Once it seemed he could reach no higher, he eased off, let the swing takeover, and enjoyed his victory. At that moment, I knew I needed to get on that swingset. I needed to swing, too. Brief adult worries flashed through my head: What if I’m too heavy? What if the swing breaks? What if I get hurt? (At my age, I can’t afford to get hurt; the healing process takes too long.) I tossed those worries away and carefully, slowly sat on that swing right next to my nephew. It didn’t break. One worry down. I started to swing, enough to feel the wind pushing my hair back and forth. It still didn’t break. My nephew started his climb to the sky again, challenging his aunt to go with him. The swing still didn’t break…but I just couldn’t quite free myself from the worry of getting hurt in order to participate in the swinging competition. I did what all good aunts do, I gave the win to my nephew and praised him for his astronomical success, all the while enjoying the swaying of the swing, the wind in my hair, the pride on my nephew’s face, and the chance to swing free in this adult society.