So this book Playful Parenting by Lawrence J Cohen is changing my life. I know intuitively that my girl needs physical play and roughhousing as a way to bond. She tackles me often when I am not expecting it and I can get hurt, so I try to structure that kind of play for her so her needs get met before she needs to surprise me. I would play a game with her when we could really be physical but safe, but often she would get unhappy at some point and I could not figure out what I was doing wrong. Sometimes I would get frustrated that my efforts just lead to more problems and the game would end very unfun. Urg.
Then I read the book and learned that there is so much subtext in kid’s play. Who knew? Cohen explains the dynamics and interprets the behaviors and has made my life so much better. My instincts around her needs were right on, but I needed to let her really feel in control and take all of my leads from her, even if they did not make sense to me. Sometimes she wants me to fall over from just her touching me (testing her power), sometimes she wants to give it all she got and really tackled me (seeing if I can handle her biggest power, take what ever she might dish, love her bigness). She wants me to tackle her but not win and when I really ham it up and brag about how easy it will be to take her down and then I try and fail (on purpose) she thinks it is hilarious. Our play leads to lots of laughing and fun now.
The other thing in the book that is really helpful is instructing me to follow the giggles and bring more laughter into all situations, often by being really silly, not really by tickling, which does not give a kid a sense of power. Jokes lighten up the tense times in a great way. I am not silly and hammy by nature but the book makes so much sense and gives me so many easy tools it is just amazing how much better we connect. I am not a light person, but the book is giving me a lot of healing and connection through laughter and lightness and I am so grateful. Solutions and help often fall into your lap when you open yourself up to asking.