All Work and No Play Makes Michael a Dull Boy

Michael B. Musgrove
8 min readJul 23, 2021

As I’m now middle-aged, I can admit some characteristics about myself that I would deny as a child, which my daughter denies and shares. I see so much of myself in her. Ironically there are traits that I also notice she doesn’t share with her mother which I recognize, and some that she does, which I believe are more from modeling and conditioning/manipulation than anything innate, which is what I focus on more due to being able to appreciate much more.

One such trait is never wanting to admit being sleepy or tired. Never wanting to go to bed until we drop. Dark circles under our eyes, clumsiness, forgetfulness, silliness, and inexplicable laughter, all signs we’re pooped and won’t admit it. We don’t want the “fun” to end.

Another is the need for activity, which goes with the above. The love of stimulation. It goes with another family trait that runs in both my family and her mother’s which is addiction, which is something I’m keeping a close eye on. Her mother, I predict, will feign ignorance and play stupid to not have to deal with it at our own child’s peril. But I know she knows better and we’ve discussed this very topic at length over the years when we had the opportunity. She doesn’t want to be bothered with it or me anymore. So with like most serious things, I’ll be left to contend with it and help our daughter alone. That’s just how it’s become and what to expect, I’ve learned over 15 years now. I state this now so people will know it’s something that’s been identified and addressed and this is how it’s been deemed to be dealt with as of this date in time. She’s six now, just turned six the week before last. I wasn’t allowed to attend or wish her a happy birthday this year or the last, as per her mother’s desire. Not mine. At least this year I was able to mail her a box of presents, but without a card, because her mother wishes I have no unsupervised contact with her. She doesn’t want to be bothered with supervising it but makes me pay for a stranger to sit and watch us “play” together for 1 hour a week in a hot boring, dirty room. It’s all sitting upon my brain, if you can’t tell.

So during these months, I’ve now been presented with a lot of “free” time. I’ll leave it at that for this essay.

So, my daughter and I share the need for activity and exercise. She will run inexhaustedly around the house, yard, and anywhere there’s room, just as I did as a child. My own mother, for whom she’s named after, would tell me to go outside and…

Michael B. Musgrove

Featured in HBR (Oct. 11), MBA, published author and marketing professor. To start with.