When I posted Jacky’s response to my post “New Girl“, I somehow missed posting Bernie DeKoven’s! My apologies, Bernie, because not only was your response first but it was also very beautiful, highly complimentary and applied my words in another direction – that of adults.
“I believe that there is no such thing as an adult who doesn’t know how to play. In the same way that Morgan describes children whose inner voices are so quiet that we can’t hear it, adults, the very adults we accuse of lack of playfulness, of not knowing how to play, might be speaking to themselves in very quiet, very deep voices. When we are invited back into play (by ourselves, by a game, by a friend or a child, by a time in our lives), we, too, might need to let ourselves be silenced by the “utterly profound” process of self meeting self before we can join the game.”
I most certainly agree. Since the bulk of my playwork became all-ages events I have seen again and again how the processes of adults mirror those of children, particularly in their return to play. They may seem grumpy, suspicious and self-conscious, they may seem aggressive or withdrawn – isn’t this familiar? And when we treat these adults exactly as we would play-deprived children, with gentleness and respect, patience and an absolute lack of judgment, remarkable things become possible.
It is easy to fall into habits of thinking that position playworkers on the “side” of children, against their adults and the barriers they create, but this is an unhelpful construct. We are all doing the best we can, muddling through, and as playworkers we have a unique set of skills to help navigate these murky waters. If we believe that “every child needs to play”, then that can also be said to encompass the children inside the adults we meet.
This is not in contradiction to our first priority of actual children, however, because a family or neighborhood in which adults understand, recognize and meet their own needs for play is a great place for children to be. Being utterly inclusive on the basis of age has, like so much of playwork, multiple benefits – it’s philosophically sound, highly tactical, and brilliant fun.