Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota
- Play is repeated, incompletely functional behavior differing from more serious versions structurally, contextually, or ontogenetically, and initiated voluntarily when the animal is in a relaxed or low stress setting. VanFleet, et al., 2010 p. 7
It has been a discouraging winter here, especially for State employees, what with the oil bust, lowered revenue, and budget cuts. My next door neighbor in the office is an extremely funny woman and we manage to lighten the atmosphere when we can. We have fun playfully harassing the construction workers who have been our companions for three months. My coworker is pretty impulsive, and I have stopped her just in the nick of time from putting her footprint in wet cement patches the construction guys had put down to plug some holes in the floor. I also convinced her to not draw hearts and smarmy messages on the foreman’s truck windows in red lipstick, after he let us know his wife was a really jealous type. Everyone else at work has been sort of gloomy, until this week.
Throughout the year, the five floors of our agency take turns having fundraisers in aid of the Agency Social Committee.The money helps pay for our annual Christmas party as well as funeral flowers for deceased relatives. This week, 2nd floor staff raised money (I guess extorting would be a better word) by raiding offices and filling them with a flock of five foot tall, inflatable flamingos. You have to pay $5.00 to have them removed. You can recommend others to get “flocked” once you have been flocked. I had to ride in the elevator a couple of times this week with a flamingo remover, four fully inflated flamingos, and a couple of child clients who believe that our agency is a pretty magical place.
I observe play most days in my work as a play therapist, and much of the time it is pretty grim business. I know it is therapeutic for children to run over abusive parental doll figures with the toy police cars, but I am exposed to this stuff all the time and it can be dispiriting to watch on a daily basis. It was gratifying to see my coworkers start to get out of the doldrums and really play with the flamingos. We know there is only so much levity you can display at an agency that provides addiction and mental health services, but the clients seem to enjoy seeing the flamingos get moved around. By Wednesday my coworkers were giving the flock costumes. My office neighbor and I gave one a head scarf and reading glasses and named her Lena. Another one was dressed in surgical masks and christened “Dr. Who”. Yet another was dressed up like a Ninja Turtle, the purple one whose name I forget.
Play is observable all around us. My terrier is always ready to play, even if it is not the way I would want her to play, as you can see from the photo. How fun! She steals a roll of toilet paper and then mom chases her all over the house! A flock of crows in the neighborhood starts playing at 5:30 am, chasing and careening and cawing. It serves some purpose, like all play does. I just wish they were quieter. 5th floor denizens at my workplace were giggling over their fundraiser for next month. I wonder how they can top the flamingos. I hope it allows for continued play.
What can top a flamingo?