Reclaiming Play and Rest

On Fridays Asha is at home with me. We stay in pajamas and linger together as I drink several cups coffee. Asha and I play, navigating our steps through scattered crayons layered with paper, toys, and stickers. Asha’s young presence is remarkably jovial and peaceful. As we play, I find myself falling in love with her all over again and my heart wholly captivated. I’m reminded that her littleness is so immediate and yet very fleeting. This toddler of mine is walking, talking, and interacting, and she continues to amaze me with each developmental leap. It’s a privilege to hold her face with genuine awe, choosing not to turn away but to draw closer, savoring her precious features. As I behold Asha’s growing self, I find that I’m tapping into the younger spaces within my heart, the vulnerable parts that I’ve attempted to suppress.

Each Friday my daughter’s unspoken invitation is simple and yet profound, “Mama, will you be present with me in play and rest?” In turn, I feel the invitation is speaking directly to me, “Anna, will you be present with your entire self in play and rest?” As I mother Asha, I find I’m re-mothering young parts of myself. I’m discovering as I hold containment for Asha’s safety and rest, it creates ways for joy and grief to hold their markers within my heart. This cherished foundation of rest is cultivated in the safety of a mother’s presence.

As I sit with Asha, my body recalls what I lost in my childhood because the chaos and havoc of sexual abuse and exploitation caused dysregulation of my young body, mind, and heart. I feel the upturning mix of uncertainty that remains within my body as I remember my ailing mother’s disorganized patterns of relating. These past memories brine daily wrestling with peace and rest. I’m usually terrified to soak in the enjoyment of recreation and the rhythm of rest; yet I yearn to breathe in the richness found in knowing the release of rest and play. In my wayward thoughts, I continue to be allured by the innocence and youthfulness found in Asha.

I am encountering a new pathway into my existence—one that feels surprised, alive, and so deeply aware to younger Anna.

 Last Friday morning after I put Asha down a nap, I took a long shower. As I stood underneath the hot water, I felt the embodiment of my senses: the lavender fragrance of my body soap, the sound of water rushing through the showerhead, the silky texture of my face wash, and the sight of steam filling the room. As I stood in my bathtub with Asha’s bath-time toys at my feet, I felt a rush of sobering recognition that my entire being has wanted to grieve the losses of my younger self for so long; she is merely asking permission to do so.

Just as Asha desires to rest and play with me, I hear little Anna asking for Friday mornings with her mother too. I cannot make this exact scenario happen, nor can I erase the years where little Anna was dismissed, forgotten, abused and ignored; however, I can choose to be present with her now. I can choose to re-mother her by offering kindness, safety, and rest. I can grant her permission to grieve the harms and cultivate authentic joy. And perhaps piece by piece, moment by moment, I can take back the ground of play and rest.

Anna SmithAnna Smith is Co-Founder of Restore One and serves as an advisory board member. Restore One has opened The Anchor House, the first shelter in the nation designed to meet the needs of sex trafficked and sexually exploited American boys. Anna has a resilient passion to see sex trafficking victims experience true healing and restoration. In her spare time, Anna enjoys biking with her husband Chris, reading, cooking, throwing pottery, running and yoga. Learn more about Restore One here.