Applied Principles: Playground Swings and Hot Summer Days

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.


One thought on “Applied Principles: Playground Swings and Hot Summer Days

  1. I wish I could apply to Reality the principle of focusing on what matters most at an instant in time, the way an atemi should strike precisely a vital point to get the maximum of efficiency. But what matters most is not one point but a set of conditions to be imperatively fulfilled in order to achieve
    balance, each condition being necessary but not sufficient by itself. Different standpoints account also for different ideas as to what is most important. And then you have yet to appreciate a situation rightly in order to decide what is most important, the way a good question would show the right understanding of a problem.

    For you the most important point was love, that is to please your young son no matter what and as a loving father you are certainly right. But if I had a child I would have thought that making him happy would have given me the opportunity to teach him to wear a hat and drink a lot when going into the scorching heat, to protect his nape with a wet towel and so on. Would I be wrong in thinking that the most important part of love is in the teaching?
    Learning Ikkyo doesn’t take that much time; it’s knowing when and how to use it adequately which will take a lifetime: There are so many reasons why this one technique fails and such a variety of conditions to fulfill in order to make it work! How to condense all that into one most important point? Can the secret of keeping one’s body and mental balance be reduced to one most important point?

    To throw away what you think you want or need and just take in the world as it is before you: this is what I think an Aikido master would do, in order to establish a connection with which to work on. And to work on the connection with what is before him would mean to understand that what the world has in store for him is indeed what he really wants or needs provided his irimi and tenkan (in a broad sense) are good enough to turn problems into solutions, the way an art of war has been turned into an art of peace or the way he would turn the fuss of his child into an opportunity to make him happier and wiser.

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