Question of the
I feel bad for not playing with my kids. They are super cute 5 and 8 year olds who happily live in the moment. I would love to be more like them. When they ask me to play, I TRY to say yes, but either I start cleaning up or I turn it into a lesson.
The other day, they wanted me to swim in the pool with them. I WANT to be the kind of mom who can have fun playing in the pool with her kids! I make myself stop cleaning and put my swimsuit on. I wasn’t in there 5 minutes before I started advising them on the proper breaststroke technique and making them swim laps. It’s like I forgot how to play.
My daughter wants me to shoot hoops with her in the street. I love that she is excited about playing basketball! I want to encourage her and play with her, but my attention span is so short. I tell myself “just play with her for 5 minutes” but it’s agonizing. I feel like I’m wasting time because there are so many things that need to get done.
Can you help this “All work and no play” momma become fun-loving and playful?
Parent Educator Answer:
The first thing that might be getting in your way is your “play personality”.
You say you forgot how to play, but I would offer that what feels like play to your kids, may not feel like play to YOU.
In the book Play, by Dr. Stuart Brown, he identifies 8 categories of play, explaining that not everyone plays the same way. It sounds like you are defining play the same way a kinesthete would, “If I’m not moving, it’s not play!”. You want to play with your kids, but if swimming and shooting hoops don’t shift you into a playful state, then “kinesthete” may not be your play personality.
You might have more fun curled up on the couch reading books with your kids, or hosting a pool party for them and their friends.
The 8 play personalities are:
- The Joker
If you are a competitor, you can make swimming fun with “how long can you hold your breath” contests or “who can do the weirdest dive”.
Because of your tendency to turn things into lessons, you might be a director, trying to create experiences for others. It could be more fun for you to create a “swimming pool obstacle course” or make a checklist of skills for your kids to master.
Figuring out what feels like play to you, can stimulate your brain, reduce the pressure you are putting on yourself and help you have more fun with your happy kids.
Now let’s talk about the brain.
When neuroanatomist, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, had a hemorrhage on the left hemisphere of her brain, she wrote an amazing book, My Stroke of Insight (and gave a famous TED talk) to help us understand the two hemispheres of the brain.
Our right brains are all about this present moment, right here, right now. When we are in our right hemisphere, we experience a deep connection to all other energy beings and our environment. This side thinks in pictures and experiences life through our sensory systems. Our right brains love storytelling, music, movement, creativity, imagination, intuition and empathy. It’s the consciousness of the right hemisphere that causes us to feel playful, joyful, peaceful and connected to a larger whole.
So the question Tamika asked “Why can’t I play with my kids?” is simple but very powerful. What she’s asking is “How do I switch from my left thinking brain, to my right thinking brain?”
Learning how to manage the mind, to choose which part of your brain you want to be in depending on the circumstances, is the most powerful and beneficial skill set any of us can learn during these wild and unpredictable times we are living in!
After her first book, people were so enamored by Dr. Taylor’s description of life with a healthy right brain and non-functioning left brain, she wrote another book called Whole Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice. This book is the “how” to her first book’s “what”.
Folks wanted to know..
HOW can we tap into our right hemisphere to experience deeper joy, peace and connection?
HOW do we quiet the left hemisphere of our minds so that we can drop into a playful state whenever we feel like it?
This is one of the goals of life coaching.
Before we can CHOOSE , we need to recognize and name the 4 sections of the brain. In Whole Brain Living, Dr. Taylor talks about the 4 sections of the brain having 4 distinctly different personalities.
- Left Thinking – Thinks about past and future. Linear and methodical. Gets things done. Details. Categorizes. Plans. Verbal internal chatter. “I am…..” which separates me from everyone else.
- Left Feeling – Always afraid, Bad things are going to happen.
- Right Thinking – Creative, sensory, playful
- Right Feeling – Fascinated, connected, no boundaries. Moments of inexplicable peace. Compassionate
Everyone of us has these characters in their brain. Getting to know them, naming them, and forming a relationship with each character helps give you the ability to CHOOSE which part of the brain to step into.
The left thinking part of the brain is the Captain of the ship. It helps us gets things done. It watches the clock, reminds us of deadlines and goals, it keeps things moving along. It’s extremely valuable, but most Supermoms spend over 98% of the day in the left hemisphere of their brains. Many of my clients will bounce back and forth between character 1 – left thinking, and character 2 – left feeling. They may start their day with a to-do list, but start panicking when obstacles come up. When your kids won’t cooperate, it can send you into left feeling, character 2.
Tell yourself you are “falling behind” on tasks, worry about your boss getting mad at you, or anticipate the embarrassment of your mother in law seeing your messy house, can send a Supermom from Character 1 into Character 2.
When your kids invite you to play, they are inviting you into the right thinking part of your brain. This playful, creative, live in the moment, expansive, imaginative, connected, part of all us DOES still exist. It is a part of your neuro-anatomy, even if you find it difficult to access, it’s nice to know it is still there.
The more you identify and notice times when you’ve been in your right brain, the easier accessing it will become. So the answer to why can’t I play with my kids, is because you are in your left brain, and perhaps trying to play in a way that isn’t fun for you.
Life Coaching Answer: What gets in our way from hopping into your right brain on command? FEARS
Fear is an emotion in the body. It comes from two places, our instincts and our thoughts.
I remember sitting WAY UP HIGH on a ropes course, held up by one cable above me and a tiny piece of wood below me. I was scared out of my mind. My heart was pounding. My palms were sweating. My mouth was dry. My body was shaking but my verbal mind was quiet. When I got to a place where I could stop and gather myself for a minute, I remember thinking “This is what REAL fear feels like….and it’s pretty damn exhilarating”. The fear I felt on a daily basis I called “fake fear”.
Fake fear comes from scary thoughts inside our head. It’s the verbal, left feeling brain creating imaginary future scenarios, or replaying past scenarios, that we react to as though they are actually happening right now.
“If I take time to play with my kids, work will pile up and I’ll get overwhelmed with work later.”
“A good mom would be able to keep the house clean, put dinner on the table, and happily swim in the pool with the kids when they ask.”
“I don’t have time to play! My boss will be mad, the teacher will think I’m flaky, my kids will get cranky, and I won’t have accomplished anything today!”
Telling yourself “I should have more fun with my kids” is a sure fire way to suck the joy out of the afternoon.
In order to choose which section of the brain you go into at any given moment, we need to release the fears that keep you stuck.
There are many ways to release fears. Two of the best ways Tamika could practice releasing fears on her own, is exercise and breath work.
When the brain goes into the fight or flight response, blood rushes to our extremities, we start sweating and our heart rate increases. You may need to run to the toilet but this physiological response happens without our permission or consent. Even though we might be creating it with a stressful thought like “I can’t mess up”, once the Central Nervous System takes over, it’s on automatic pilot.
When we enter this physiological state, it’s helpful to act on it by going for a run, riding a bike, punching pillows or somehow “fighting or fleeing”. If you have stressful thoughts, any exercise where you work up a sweat can be tremendously helpful to shift you out of fear, and into the state of rest and play.
The other way to release fear is to shift your brain out of the fight or flight state. The one part of this fight/flight state we have control over is our breath. We can’t force ourselves to stop sweating or redirect the blood flow in our body, but we can take deliberately slow, deep breaths. If you encounter a bear in the wild, you will automatically take short shallow breaths. When you are relaxing in a hammock under a palm tree, you automatically take slow and deep breaths. When our body goes into fight or flight, but we take slow deep breaths, we confuse our brains. The deep breathing tricks our Central Nervous System into shifting to a relaxed state.
Both exercise and breath work bring you into the present moment, which shifts you into the right hemisphere of your brain, which shifts you into a playful brain state.
Supermom Kryptonite – Too much left brain thinking
Kids are great at living on the right side of their brain. They live in the moment, use their imagination, their creativity and exist in a state of play.
Parents and teachers dwell on the left side of their brain. We remind kids about the existence of rules, about cleaning up, about time, about what’s coming next. It takes a strong left brain to manage the comings and goings of a family. Doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, and getting to school on time, could not be managed without a strong left brain.
Every time we talk about the plan for the day, or teach them to read from left to right, we are encouraging our children’s left brain thinking.
Today’s Supermom Kryptonite is an over-development of our left brains.
If we spend too much time following rules, watching the clock, accomplishing tasks, we lose out on the beautiful gifts of right brain thinking. Instead of always trying to bring your kid over to the left brain, try joining them in the right brain.
Your kid is playing with superheroes instead of eating breakfast….incorporate the two. Have the superhero eat breakfast with your child, taking turns powering up with fuel to fly into the car.
Some of my favorite ways to do this are:
“Do Nothing” Days – Create a span of time where the only goal is to accomplish nothing.
Exercise Classes are so good for my creative idea machine I sometimes bring a notebook to class.
Sitting in the sunshine for 5 minutes and focusing on my breath.
Going for a walk in nature without my phone (if no one’s watching, sometimes I skip 🙂
Sacred pet the doggy time, sacred chocolate, morning coffee
Floating in water: hot tubs, pools, lakes, etc.
Watching the sunset
Holding a newborn baby
Supermom Power Boost – Meditation
You’ve probably heard a lot about this concept of meditation which is why it took 105 episodes for me to mention it as an energy power boost.
Meditation is this magical pill that has no adverse side effects but scientific studies show it can help decrease anxiety, depression, insomnia, blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, menopause, cravings and addictive impulses. Meditation is also shown to improve immune system function, boost attention span, memory, creativity, productivity, self awareness, happiness and emotional well being.
If you had a pill that did all these things wouldn’t you take it? The problem is this pill is really hard to swallow!
Most people hear about meditation and think, “How hard can that be?”….and then they try it.
When our left verbal brain has been in charge for a long time, it’s not going to relinquish control that easily. This “Captain of the Ship” is going to fight like crazy to stay in charge. When you first try to meditate, expect to get squirmy, distracted, and find a million more compelling things that urgently need your attention.
But the more you try it, the easier it gets. This magical pill becomes easier to swallow. The resistance to meditation subsides and you start to look forward to this break from the left thinking brain.
The biggest benefit of meditation is the same thing life coaching provides. It sits YOU in the driver’s seat of your brain. Every time you have an impulse to get up off your chair, and you force yourself to sit back down, you declare dominion over your mind. The spirit and essence of YOU gets to be in charge. YOU get to decide what you want to think about, how you want to feel, the actions you want to take, no matter what your default wiring might be based on the past.
Quote of the Day: “Western women will save the world” Dalai Lama