Just for Dads ~ March 2022
by Ward Williams
Executive director, Vineyard Family Services
photo by Photograph by Tim Mossholder/Upsplash
One weekend recently, I not only received an invite to my 30-year high school reunion, but also my childhood friend of 40 years, Joey, stayed the night with my family on his way back from visiting his college-age daughter. We talked about our childhood adventures, shared a story or two my wife had never heard, and remembered some misadventures we successfully hid from my mom for 30-plus years.
Growing up, my friends and I saw our neighborhood as a giant adventure just waiting for us to explore. We were fortunate to grow up in a neighborhood with a good number of kids our age and, on top of that, we had the perk of living in a neighborhood with a giant park located at the center. As kids, we spent many hours and days playing in that park, using our imaginations as we pretended to protect our homeland with inspiration from Rocky and Red Dawn. There were many days filled with exploits, danger, and precariousness that helped us develop the ability to be resilient and improvise. I believe that all those battles in the park led to my friend Joey finding his calling, as he now has achieved high rank in the Army and has served multiple tours overseas since 9/11. The imagination, interaction, and mostly unsupervised play was a vital part of our childhood as we learned how to communicate and relate to one another.
Play is essential for the social emotional growth in children. Social and emotional development is taught in almost every field of professionals who work with children, and it is something that should be incorporated into each part of children’s lives. As parents, it is important that we encourage play, imagination, and creative outlets that help our kids see opportunities and possibilities of what they can be and what they can do to benefit the world around them. In general, men and women have completely different styles of play, and both are necessary. We should never stop playing and imagining. Our kids are never too old—and neither are we—to be creative and use our imaginations.
Joey recently visited Corpus Christi and shared that our hometown is not the same as it once was. When we were young, it was a place where anything could happen, and the future was full of endless opportunities. It was a place full of laughter and play. An important way to help your child look back on their hometown and childhood is to create a place where play is fun and encouraged.
Ward Williams is the founder and executive director of Vineyard Family Services. Contact him at email@example.com.