Finding Playfulness in Parenting

by Rupa Mehta August 31, 2023

kid in stroller squeezing dad's cheeks

"Mommy, I'm done sleeping. Mommy, I'm done resting. Mommy...Mommy...Mommy?"

This is what I wake up to almost every morning. The glorious, hilarious, melodic sound of my daughter's voice beckoning me to release her from the prison-ish grasp of her crib (she's 3 and I pinch myself from luck that she's still immobile at night!).

The routine doesn't get old, and my husband and I chuckle at it each and every time. But yesterday, he turned to me and said "can you believe you're the mommy and I'm the daddy?" We both laid there for a minute, then laughed at ourselves as tears trickled down our sappy faces, until it was time to go get her up and out.

The unbelievable reality that I am now officially someone's mommy is the subject of my new book of poetry, someone calls me mommy. It is an anthology of 100 poems and seeks to capture the incongruous perspectives of parent and child. My goal in writing and illustrating the book was a much-needed catharsis; a way to help heal from the recent passing of my beloved mother.

But what I have realized now that moms across the country are reading the book, responding to it so strongly and reaching out with heartfelt thoughts, is that this book is far more universal than I could have imagined. The enlightening and comedic twist of dual mom and daughter perspectives on subjects like breastfeeding, child safety, swaddling and then-some has captured the parental, and more pointedly the maternal experience, in a visceral way.

Why? What is going on? What's the deeper level here?

I believe that the answer is the undeniable fact that, although we become parents, we never truly cease to be children. Sure, we are saddled with profound responsibilities. Okay, we become the routined, arguably boring people we've spent most of our lives avoiding becoming. Yes, we submit to the reality that there is now someone a rung beneath us on the family tree.

But no, we are not suddenly, and magically and irreversibly turned into adults. Our inner children yearn for a playdate, for a tantrum, for a tree-climb. For many of us, certainly in my lucky case, we have the time and space to truly witness the journeys of our children. We can not only be their guides, but we should be their playmates.

The unexpected lesson of my book, and I think the intention of so many of the inspiring authors I have admired over my lifetime, is that we have to keep our youthful perspective alive. We have to laugh and breathe and play in order to maintain our childlike sense of wonderment at all costs. Lest we become the predictable, static parents that we would never want to be.

Spring is upon us, and my daughter came home from school recently to tell me that she “pushed some worms with a stick at school.” Sure, the former city girl in me recoils in disgust, as it’s been ages (well, decades really) since worm-hunting was a favorite pastime of mine. I chose the response she needed…one of gleeful surprise and exuberance.

She inspired me to step up my game and try something out of my comfort zone. I slowly started picking up worms with my apprehensive fingers and moving them to areas we felt they would be “happier”. Soon my confident hands and my exploring daughter found such joy in saving them from a “long commute” to the desirable plants. I’ll happily take a dose of the most wonderful thing imaginable this time of year - worms, snails and caterpillars topped with new adventures and quality time with my toddler-friend.

Embracing parenthood does not mean you are no longer a child. In fact, it is our duty to show our children that we can be on their level too. In turn, they will be honored to call us mommy and daddy, and they will follow our brave examples one day when their time comes to embody those honored titles.

Rupa Mehta


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