My husband gave me two coloring books for Christmas – as a child, I didn’t even like coloring, I preferred puzzles and storybooks – but I have already broken into them.
I’m not alone, coloring books for adults were a hot item in 2015. Why? I’m convinced it is a backlash against a culture that requires every activity to have a purpose. We intentionally spend each minute doing tasks that add to our resumé of achievements. For a generation of moms who have been measured by their GPAs, job statuses and parenting philosophies, coloring is an escape. No one can judge the way we swirl a marker. No page of blue dolphins will have to make the cut to get us a job or position anywhere. It’s pointless. And for that reason, it brings rest.
Dr. Stuart Brown believes we find much more than that when we simply play. “We are built to play and built through play. When we play, we are engaged in the purest expression of our humanity, the truest expression of our individuality. Is it any wonder that often the times we feel most alive, those that make up our best memories, are moments of play? There is a crisis of the soul that comes from pouring every moment of your time and every ounce of your being into others’ expectations.”
There are a few ways play can bring rest to the soul.
Rediscover a passion.
What has brought you joy in the past, simply because it’s fun? A sport? Art? Collecting something? Can you find a way to reinvent that activity? Maybe take a class at the park district, or organize a ladies night out to do whatever recharges you. Before kids, this probably came naturally, now you have to plan it and be intentional about making play happen. That sounds oxymoronic but it’s a thing. Moms know what happens if we don’t plan to take time for ourselves.
Find an abridged version.
If your favorite activity takes too much time, why not abbreviate it to fit your schedule as a mom? For instance, I was a literature major, so reading brings me joy. With three littles, I wasn’t going to sit down with War and Peace anytime soon but a book of Robert Frost’s poetry fits perfectly into a day filled with only moments of uninterrupted time. It was a quick respite of joy in the midst of a full day.
Enjoy creativity around you.
Seek out imaginative work everywhere. For some, that’s an art museum, for others, watching people build sand castles is more their style. Personally, I like to sit and watch the birds three-feet outside my window on the feeder pole. Identifying a Rose-Breasted Nuthatch and watching its antics adds nothing to my list of credentials. (In fact, I’d say it rather detracts from my ability to concentrate on writing!) But it is restful, and it feeds my soul and my mind in a way I’m convinced makes me better when I get back to work.
Involve the kids.
Do something creative and playful with them. Teach them your hobby. Don’t require perfection – that destroys the purpose. Just show them the basics and then let them play without further instruction on how to do it “right.” You are after rest, not stress.
Every Christmas, we make a gingerbread house. It started out as one of those easy kits that someone gave us. It has morphed into a giant extravaganza that takes up an entire table. We do not care that the candy is not in straight rows, the frosting is haphazard, or that more ends up on the floor and our faces than on the gingerbread house. We just go for it in the zaniest way possible – and we love our creations for the sake of the process, not the product. Hogwarts sat on our counter this year. My favorite, though, is still Minas Tirith. (We go big in gingerbread world.)
Finally, don’t forget to encourage your kids in play – unstructured, unorganized, unguided play, just for play’s sake. Teach them to grow up valuing the free time of the soul as the necessary thing it is – a restful reconnection to our purpose for being.
Jill Richardson is a writer, speaker, pastor, mom of three and author of five books who blogs at jillmrichardson.com.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Hello, Dearest. If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get Hello, Dearest in your mailbox every season. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.