Permission to PLAY

I have recently been giving a lot of thought to the word “play” and what it really means to me. As an adult, I feel like societal norms tell me that I should be an upstanding citizen, maintain a job, and produce a child or two who will also grow up to be an upstanding citizen. When I really look at what society wants from our youth, it appears that they are to show adults respect, go to school, and learn ways to become upstanding citizens in the world. Nowhere that I can see do societal norms dictate play. 

I had a revelation this week, and it was profound enough to me that I wanted to share it with you. But first, I have to give a little bit of background information. 

As a play therapist, I emphasize letting kids be kids and encouraging them to play as much as possible. Kids need to play. Sometimes, it is my job to help parents relearn, and sometimes, I have to teach them how to play. I think play is something a lot of us take for granted, and because it’s not in the forefront of our minds, we forget what it’s like and how incredibly important it is for all of us to do. 

My play will likely look different than yours. I play Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D for short, with a group of friends every other weekend. We play for around 6 hours, and if we have to skip for one reason or another, more than one party member is very upset. 

For those who don’t know, D&D is a collaborative storytelling game played with dice and your imagination. We play with minis, or likenesses of our character that are 1.5-2 inches tall, a map, and dice. Our Dungeon Master (DM) leads the story, but ultimately, it’s up to the party to decide what we do and where we go. Here is a more elaborate description if you’re interested.

(https://www.dicebreaker.com/games/dungeons-and-dragons-5e/how-to/how-to-play-dungeons-and-dragons)

When Covid kept us all home, I was devastated. There are online options to play D&D, but it wasn’t something any of us were familiar with. Thankfully, our DM was able to find us a way to play online fairly quickly, and we were able to get back to our regular schedule of play. We are finally playing in person again, masks and all, and it’s something I missed more than I realized. 

In July of 2020, my character had a child and then, that night (in-game but in real life was two sessions later), got engaged. None of this was planned at all, but because of choices made in the game, it’s how things happened nonetheless. On our drive home, my mind would not stop thinking about this wedding my character would be having. I spent a couple of hours on Pinterest, looking at dresses, circlets, and vests. (Before Covid kept us home, another character stole 8 dresses from a shopkeeper who was treating us horribly and put them in my bag. One of these dresses ended up being the one I will use for my character’s wedding dress. While on Pinterest, I found the other 7 dresses in my bag, too.) 

My character has access to a spell that allows her to create a mansion, and I spent most of one of my days off searching the Internet for house plans and then reconfiguring them to fit our character’s needs. While I was doing all of this, I was feeling ridiculous, because I was spending so much time on things that, in the grand scheme of the game, didn’t really matter. But, hey; they mattered to me, yet I couldn’t figure out why they mattered so much

Then, I had the revelation. THIS, Dungeons and Dragons, is my play. I need this, and it’s OKAY for me to need it. It’s okay for me to want to have fun. It’s okay for me to spend time every once in a while being ridiculous, looking at dresses and mansions for my character. It’s okay for me to be invested in my character’s life. As of right now, she’s been a constant figure in my life for almost 5 years. 

Find the best way for you to play, and don’t apologize or feel bad about it. It’s okay for us to be ridiculous every once in a while (as long as you’re not hurting yourself or someone else, and nobody’s hurting you). Find ways to enjoy this life we’ve been given. As we’ve all seen with Covid, things can change quickly, and play can be what gets us through tough times. 

Give yourself PERMISSION to play!

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