Yesterday, the family and I went to a BBQ sponsored by my daughter’s swim team. It was one part “end-of-the-season” celebration, and one part farewell party for one of Hannah’s coaches. My daughter, H, spent most of her time playing at the lake with her teammates and friends. My wife spent her time taking pictures and (hopefully) relaxing with some of the other parents. My youngest was your typical four-year-old–bouncing from one event to the other.
And my middle child, M? He wanted to swing.
At first, I resisted this. It was 80-90 degrees out. The swingset was smack in the middle of the playground. No shade anywhere nearby. Standing out in the sun was hot and tiring and boring. On our first two trips out there, I lasted for about 10 minutes before I told M we had to do something else. He went sadly–throwing a little fit here and there. I transferred my fatigue and frustration to him without even realizing it.
It was inevitable before he’d ask me to take him swinging again. At last, I gave in and told him I would push him on the swings one more time. He joyfully ran to find a swing. As I watched him go, I realized that this was all he wanted–was to have his dad push him on the swings. I resolved at that moment to do so as long as possible. So I pushed him on the swings. And I stayed there. I only left twice–to check on my youngest. Each time I would give M a huge push, run like crazy to find my youngest (who was usually with my wife or on another part of the playground) and then ran back just as M’s momentum was starting to ebb. I’d then give M another huge push, and his smiles and laughter returned.
It was hot. Really hot, for me. But this time, it wasn’t boring, because I focused solely on M and making him happy. We stayed there on the swings for at least 45 minutes–perhaps longer. At one point, I pushed M and said: “Are you having fun?” A tired, contented voice responded: “Yes. This makes me happy.” Finally, when I knew it was nearly time for us to go home, I asked him if we could stop and I’d carry him. He was nearly asleep on the swing, and gratefully climbed into my arms.
In Kokikai Aikido, we talk a lot about keeping one point. Often, we talk about it as the center of your balance. But I think it applies more broadly than that. Keeping one point means your focus on what truly matters at that instant in time. To throw away what you think you want or need and just take in the world as it is before you. Yesterday, one point meant pushing M on the swings for as long as he wanted. After all, how many days do I get where he’ll ask me to do that? And making him happy filled me with such contentment, such peace. I am so very glad that I somehow had the presence of mind to throw away my own wants and instead focus on someone else. With luck, this type of awareness–this keeping of one point–will become more frequent.