Kicking the Donut: Why Play is Important to Relationships

donutThe other day on our morning walk Kelly and I saw a small toy donut, or bagel in the street. About the size of a half dollar – when turned over we saw that it has googly eyes and a smile. We decided to play “kick the donut”. Each of us would take a turn kicking the donut– with the other watching out for traffic. We liked to watch the way the donut would skid, or roll as we kicked it.

While we were playing – we were having fun – with each other. We were not thinking about: the mortgage, who cleaned the cat box last, or other “important” matters.

We finally kicked the donut under a car bumper and it would have been difficult to retrieve. Since the donut was near the children’s museum, we figured some child would find it and it would be their treasure. Alas, this morning on our walk – we saw the donut and it was still there. So we resumed our play. Once it was kicked into a puddle – so the rules were modified as I fished it out of the water with a stick I had found on the ground. We continued to kick – till the donut split apart – down the middle like a sliced bagel. Now we each had a donut to kick – but the physics of the response to a kick was different – so more fun!

At last we reached our home and the donut halves were reunited on the stick.

This type of activity – pure play, cooperative play, was just what we needed on our morning walk. We joined in a way we had not been joined while talking. We both took part in inventing new rules for kicking the donut, and the spirit was cooperation and fun.

In our busy lives it is important to be able to play. Play is different than sport or games that have rigid rules or that the goal is to “beat” the other. Play is spontaneous, cooperative, absorbing and bonds people like few other activities. When was the last time you and your mate played? How can you find time and energy to play more? What are your life donuts , waiting to be kicked?

Michael Winters is a Psychologist in Houston focusing on marriage counseling and therapy. Michael received his PhD from the University of Memphis and has been practicing since 1991.