When a 6-year old calls out to you, “Let’s play Candyland!”, how do you respond?
Someone in our house is continually trying to throw Candyland away. Trying to convince the kids they are “too old for Candyland,” (whaaat?)
Perhaps the most important part of my job these days is saying, “Ok, Candyland, not Uno?” and taking off the gardening gloves or apron or putting down the dusting or whatever I was in the middle of, and playing Candyland.
Because it isn’t about Candyland. It isn’t ever about Candyland. It’s about relationship. It’s about whether the Princess Frostine is creepy or beautiful, or if the licorice guy is cool, or whether someone just cheated. It’s about who wins and how many times they win and letting the other person win sometimes. How many times we play before we move on, and what will moving on look like.
Practical life is a part of something called “The Catechism of the Good Shepherd,” where small repetitive activities become something else. They become moments of peace, and in that peace we settle down a little bit. Sort of like Mr. Rogers and his taking off his jacket, hanging it up, putting on his sweater and slippers every time he came home. It is sweeping, peeling carrots, washing dishes in a sink of warm soapy water with no conversation, no noise. Sometimes playing Candyland feels a little bit like that, it is almost a non-activity that is a medium to interact with a child.
“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” — C.S. Lewis
My youngest is beautiful, full of fire and changing every minute deciding whether today is the worst day ever or the best day ever. It is exhausting and requires steadfastness on my part. She assails with sassy talk, words like “unfair” and “boring” and then hands me a love letter, most likely because I peeled her a mango.
My oldest declares that “no one will ruin her day today!” and I kiss her forehead and think or maybe say out loud, “Oh thank God,”
My youngest wants to paint nails so we get all the things out. We may talk, we may not. The oldest sits down and says, “Can I sit with you?” Of course. “I don’t like painting my nails,” I don’t either, I think, but it doesn’t matter, because it isn’t about the nails. It’s about the relationship.
The youngest helps me pull weeds and we learn about which ones are weeds. She tugs and pulls the tops off and the roots remain in the dirt to flower again very soon, but I couldn’t care less. Because it isn’t about the weeds, it’s about relationship.
I suppose that is one of the ways that parenthood changes a person.