The Importance of Play: What the Christopher Robin Film Taught Me
*Disclaimer: There are some spoilers in this post from the movie Christopher Robin. As much as I want you to read this post, if you plan on seeing it and don’t want to have any spoilers, go see it then come back and read this post!*
I didn’t grow up on Winnie-the-Pooh. Sure, he’s cute as pie and who doesn’t love Piglet or Tigger? But, honestly, I wasn’t a huge fan. I didn’t have Winnie-the-Pooh paraphernalia and I can’t sing any of the songs.
I remember a childhood friend having Winnie-the-Pooh overalls and I distinctly remember around 2010/2011, sitting in my Literary Research Methods class taught by the late Kate Chandler. I remember that first day, her coming in, our seats arranged in a circle and her sharing emphatically about her deep love for Winnie-the-Pooh. I’m almost certain we read an excerpt.
Other than those moments, I have no true connection to Winnie-the-Pooh and the Hundred Acre Woods. So, when the movie Christopher Robin was being promoted, I didn’t bat an eye. Did I think it would be bad? Nope. Would I necessarily pay to see it? No. However, that was not the case last Tuesday. I found myself, begrudgingly, sitting in a theater waiting to see Christopher Robin. I won’t lie I had my heart set on watching Mission Impossible 6, but here I was preparing to watch Christopher Robin.
And y’all. Oh. My. STARS. I cried. The. Whole. Time. And laughed---A LOT.
If you are a Winnie-the-Pooh fan, then you will LOVE Christopher Robin and should stop reading now if you plan on seeing it, because there is a spoiler in the words to come. If you aren’t a Winnie-the-Pooh fan then, you will LOVE Christopher Robin, also stop reading if you plan on seeing it. For the sake of this post, I had to give away a part of the movie and if spoilers are your least favorite, I’d bookmark this post, see the movie, then finish reading!
Anyways, Christopher Robin tugs on every heart string possible.
But what I loved about this film, beyond the fact that it was just done really well, from the score to cinematography to acting, the message and heart of this film is what we are needing.
Sitting in that dark theater, a small bag of half-eaten popcorn in my lap and a tissue permanently resting by my cheek, I found myself thinking, “what happened?”
What happened to the freedom we experience as kids? Our imaginations swirling and leaping. Where we played with no inhibitions?
As different scenes played out, my eyes burning from tears of reflection and laughter, I found myself examining my life---my world. What has play looked like? Why has it stopped? Does growing up mean we have to give up play for the sake of “responsibility” or “maturity”?
As I watched this movie, I saw Christopher Robin grow up and go through various life experiences from death and grieving to marriage to war to raising a child and the childlike wonder he had was suddenly lost. Much like we do as we get older, we experience life in all its shapes and forms and our childlike wonder and freedom, if not protected, dwindles until it’s seemingly no longer there.
Christopher Robin began to “adult”, always focused on his work and hustle. He had begun to lose sight of what mattered. Until Pooh found him and unbeknownst to Christopher Robin, Pooh invited him on an adventure of finding himself again---finding play.
I will never forget the scene where it hit me right between my eyes. It was so powerful.
Christopher Robin finds himself in the Hundred Acre Woods after at least 20+ years. He is trying to help Pooh find his friends, but he is also very preoccupied with doing it the most efficient way possible with no fuss or frills.
Anyways, fast forward, Christopher Robin yells at Pooh (which made me mad, because who yells at a teddy bear) and Pooh disappears. On his search to find Pooh, Christopher Robin ends up finding the rest of the gang, but they don’t recognize him. It’s not until he starts to play that they began to see he truly was Christopher Robin. And the more he played, the more they recognized him.
I could feel my heart squeeze and I felt a pang in my chest. How often have we let life snuff out our childlike wonder and adventure? How often have we let “adulting” take the lead in the name of responsibility and maturity? To the point that we no longer recognize ourselves---our true selves?
Don’t get me wrong. Pay your bills and pay them on time. Be successful and professional with your job. Handle ya business. But, in all the handling, ask yourself if you’ve lost your wonder? Ask yourself, when was the last time you let yourself lean into that wonder, your imagination, and adventure?
Of course, play looks different for everyone. For a large majority, it probably does not involve frolicking through a forest playing make believe, and that’s ok. I think play can be defined as whatever allows you to connect with childlike wonder and imagination. Whatever brings you joy and replaces those worry lines with laugh lines.
Watching that film, it just reinforced my heart’s desire to live a simple life where I am able to see and invest in what matters most. It reminded me that play is important in this life journey. It doesn't make you immature or irresponsible.
Even in this simple living pursuit. It is easy to get caught up in doing all the things, and not actually finding rest or joy. I’m convinced, we can’t be all work and no play. We can’t let the weight of adulting, because sometimes it feels like a weight if I’m just honest (not necessarily bad just real), keep us from finding joy, finding rest, finding play.
All I know is, at the end of the day, when I’m old and my days are spent reflecting, I want to be able to look back over my life and not see years spent simply working, but years spent doing what matters most and being filled with the joy that brings.
So, Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh and the Hundred Acre Woods inspired me. Inspired me to remember the importance of play even as an adult, that childlike wonder and the beauty of my imagination are a constant invitation to remembering what matters most and living in the joy that carries.
How about you? Do you "play" or struggle with finding space for the things that bring you joy?
Photos courtesy of Michelle Dant