To Play or Not to Play, That is the Question

Polina Osherov with her daughters

Polina Osherov with her daughters

By Polina Osherov

“Mommy, mommy! Look!” My 7 year old, plucked at my sleeve impatiently, holding out the newest of her “adventure books”, usually a few sheets of 8.5×11 paper folded in half haphazardly, the cover backwards. “I’m working on a new book!”, she explained enthusiastically. “Mmmmhhmmm”, I responded non-committally, half-turning my head in her direction, my eyes glued to the laptop screen, fingers continuing to fly across the keyboard. It was 7:30 at night and my inbox still had 40 unread email messages. A typical evening in my household.

“How could I possibly explain to my lovable blue-eyed princess that for me work was play and that playing games, of any kind, bored me to tears.”

“It’s about me and Lauren and Annika and we’re fairies we go out to fight the bad guys!” my daughter continued oblivious to my apparent lack of response. “Well, first we’re fairies, but then we turn into ninjas,” she amended in the same cheerful tone. “And we have these cool looking ponies. They look evil, but they’re not really evil. It’s to scare the bad guys.”

“Cool…” I responded, trying to sound interested, but not succeeding. “Do you like my picture?” Natasha continued relentlessly. I ignored her, attempting to come up with an artful refusal to a request for my photography services with a too tight a deadline. I typed a few more words barely noticing the sudden silence. The silence extended. I breathed a sigh of relief, assuming that my budding writer had decided to continue her project, but it was suddenly too quiet. As most parents of small children will tell you, complete silence while your children are supposed to be engaged in play is usually a bad sign. I looked up. My daughter was sitting on the couch across from me, staring at me sternly.

“Mommy,” she said quietly, “ why are you always working?”

A combination of guilt and irritation welled up inside me. How could I possibly explain to my lovable blue-eyed princess that for me work was play and that playing games, of any kind, bored me to tears. Card games. Board games. Computer games. Forget about it! A friendly round of darts or cornhole? Count me out. Building LEGOs? That’s more my husband’s domain and I wouldn’t even know where to start.

I sighed, took a deep breath, stood up closing the laptop on the unfinished email, “Always working?! I am not!” I said teasingly, holding out my hand to her. “Let’s go play!”

It’s good to love what you do, I reasoned with myself trying not to let guilt prevail as I mentally crafted a response that would satisfy my daughter’s question. Still, nothing I came up with could do it justice. “Mommy doesn’t know how to play.” wasn’t going to fly, as I had on occasion exhibited unusual exuberance with my daughters that said otherwise. “Mommy is no fun.” was not entirely true either. “Mommy’s brain is too busy thinking about other stuff.” Now, I was getting somewhere. “Mommy has lots of really interesting things she’s working on that feel a lot like playing.” There it was, but I was concerned that my daughter would not understand or worse, misunderstand. I wanted her and her younger sister to get as much playing in as they could before life got serious and grown-up responsibilities took over. And I prayed that they would both discover their life’s passion early on, so that when they did have to “go to work”, that it made them so content that they would consider it “play”.

I sighed, took a deep breath, stood up closing the laptop on the unfinished email, “Always working?! I am not!” I said teasingly, holding out my hand to her. “Let’s go play!”

Polina is a Russian-born, Indianapolis based commercial photographer specializing in fashion & portraiture. She is also the editor of patternindy.com and editor-in-chief of PATTERN PAPER, a magazine uniting creators and consumers of fashion right here in
Indianapolis. Learn more about Polina and her work here.

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