I often feel like play is a lot of work. Especially when I need to play by my son's rules, which aren't always very clear, and often change. I like helping him build a train track, for example, but driving the trains around the track is boring, and when he doesn't let me move them because I'm not doing it right, it's downright frustrating. DH is great at the kind of play where he chases our son around the house, and I can do that some, but I get tired of it quickly.
But tonight, it was time for a bath, and DS was playing in the water. I sat down next to the tub, and joined in pouring water and suds into his boat. When I couldn't get the suds out of my cup, he washed them out for me. When I put some suds on him, he washed it off himself. We had a very warm, tender, connected time, I didn't feel bored, he didn't correct me (much), and neither of us wanted it to end.
What is the difference? I don't usually take baths or play with boats anywhere, so it's not the things we played with that made it fun. Why was it easier to engage him tonight? Maybe I didn't go into it with any expectations. I tried to meet him where he was, and just be with him. Maybe it was that he didn't have any expectations. He didn't ask me to play with him, he didn't have rules in his head already, so he was open to seeing what we could play together. Maybe the scent of the bubblebath made us both loopy! All I know is that's the kind of play I love, where we are both present, open, a little goofy, smiling and laughing a lot, loving a lot, enjoying each other a lot.