The boy and I have a very particular walking route that we enjoy three to four times a week. It takes us through four parks and past a plethora of playground equipment that I'm supposed to be far too old to enjoy. Yet it seems the older I become, the less I tend to care about whether toys were designed with people like me in mind. If my ass fits, then you can rest assured that I'll likely squeeze my westernised frame into a space to enjoy some innocent play with my son. The activity that we tend to enjoy the most, though, is the swing.

There is one particular swing set that suits both of us quite well as it has two child-sized bowl-seats1 next to two rectangular seats for people with better balance and stronger muscles. When the boy and I get to the park with this swing, he runs to grab his preferred chair while repeating "Jason, suwingu!"2, and laughs with glee when picked up to enjoy the combination of gravity, momentum, and kinetic energy. Once he has enough height, he'll tell me to get on a swing and ride with him; which is something I am more than happy to indulge in.

A couple of weeks ago the boy learned that by kicking his legs at a certain time, he can maintain some momentum, which means that he can keep himself going after the initial big pushes. As he's starting to develop a bit of a competitive tendency, he'll often try to kick his legs higher than me. This is a silly endeavour, as my legs are longer than his entire body, making it almost impossible for him to kick higher than me unless I happen to be standing on the ground. However, regardless of the futility, he will try to swing higher, kick farther, and laugh louder than anyone else in the park.

Reiko says she was the same way as a kid. My sisters were most certainly the same way as a kid. So was I and, hopefully, so were you. The universality of childhood play is a wonderful thing to see in action.

When the boy and I swing in tandem I'm often reminded of summer days in my youth when I would swing until my stomach hurt, pushing my legs out as far as they could go so that I might touch the sky. The smell of the metal chains here is the same as I remember from three decades ago. The rhythmic sound of the swing as friction, momentum, and gravity causes the chain to squeak at the mounting bolt is the same. The sound of a three year old boy laughing with glee and saying "I'm higher!" every time he reaches the apex of his ascent….

May I never forget these little moments.

  1. I don't know if this is what the chairs are called or not. They look like inverted helmets, shaped in such a way as to prevent a young child from falling out under most circumstances.

  2. This would be the Japanese pronunciation of the activity.