The other day, I baby-sat my ex-husband’s five-year-old daughter as she waited for the school bus. She’s one of my favorite people in the world, and it’s always a joy to spend time with My Princess.

So at 8:25, it was almost time for the bus to come. I asked her to put on her coat, but she was engrossed in a t.v. show.

Next, I asked her to get her backpack, but she wanted to find the right shade of blue for the picture she was coloring – of a princess, of course.

We went outside, heading for the driveway to wait for the bus, but she was concerned that a pile of branches was on top of some flowers growing by the front walk. “They don’t like to be covered,” she told me, and set about to move the branches, but I told her there wasn’t time. Bus was coming.

We got to the middle of the driveway and I realized she’d brought out the paper kite she’d made in school and she started to run in a circle, making it fly. Making her laugh. Making me laugh, too, in spite of myself. Every instinct said, No time to play. Bus is coming. Can’t miss the bus.

Finally, the bus arrived and she ran to me for a hug. “I love you so much, honey,” I said. She gave me another hug. But of course, you know the drill. Bus is waiting. She got on the bus and we waved good-bye.

It seemed as I watched the bus drive away that there were more than just decades that separated us. There was a great divide. The one between making sure you meet your obligations and really being in the moment and savoring life as it happens.

We go to great pains to make sure that the bus doesn’t wait; meantime, we make our souls wait.

You can play later, we tell ourselves. Be an adult. Playing isn’t what we do. What we do is meet deadlines. Put bills on auto-pay. Put ourselves on auto-pilot. Get on the bus. Get it done.

Maybe we spend our lives looking for the secret sauce that adds verve and vitality to our everyday existence, and it’s the one thing we un-learned on our way to adulthood.

Playtime isn’t frivolous. It’s a crucial nutrient that nurtures and nourishes the soul. Being a grown-up doesn’t have to be a chronic condition. So I say, any time you can tap into your inner child, kick off your shoes and play on!

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