Swing Time!

Swing Time!

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

Swing Time!

Our brightest blazes of gladness are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.

Samuel Johnson

“Mom! Mom! Push us on the swing set!” my youngest daughter said, galloping out the front door, her pigtails bouncing like a pair of tossed Ping-Pong balls. That’s my cue, I know, to put aside whatever I’m working on and follow her to our backyard. This is important—it was “swing time.”

Fifteen years ago, after birthing my first child, I relied on our battery-operated infant swing to sooth my fussy six-month-old. The steady rhythm of the swing’s motor never failed to drone my crying baby to sleep. Sometimes, I have to admit, I’d push my baby in the infant swing without even turning the power button on. I’d just push my sweet baby girl in her little swing by hand, completely absorbed in watching her fit her tiny fists in her drooling mouth or listening to the steady sucking sound she’d make in her sleep.

As each of my other five children grew up, they introduced me to the wonderful world of outdoor play sets. My toddlers, preschoolers, even my school-age children never seemed to tire of swinging on their swing set. “Push me, Mommy!” they’d plead again and again. “Give me an underdog! Higher!” They’d giggle together, their long summer-blonde hair trailing behind them like wild angels’ wings as they cut through the air, soaring higher and higher.

“I wish I had a battery-operated motor on our swing set,” I confided in my husband at the end of one long summer day. “I feel like my arms will fall off after pushing so many kids on the swings all day. It’d be neat to just press a button, and all six swings would automatically push the kids as long as they want!”

My husband, ever the problem solver, jumped at the chance to use his ingenuity. “Well, I could rig up some kind of a motor to the framework . . . wonder how I could power the thing. Maybe I could . . .” But I had fallen fast asleep to the song of rusty swing hinges squeaking in my tired head.

Every day that summer and many summer days after, I’d push my children on our backyard swing set. Soon, my oldest daughters grew too tall to swing, their long legs dangling and dragging in the dust beneath the swing seat. But they’d still come out to the backyard with the littler kids and me to help push. They were better at giving “underdogs” anyway, they bragged. And I had to agree. While launching the little kids, my older girls tickled our toddler’s toes, told knock-knock jokes with our kinder-gartener, and listened with bright eyes as their eight-year-old sister told them about the scary dream she’d had the night before.

Wow! This is great! I suddenly realized. For the first time in more than a decade, I didn’t have to be the designated pusher. With my older kids to help, my younger children didn’t need me to push anymore! Even the one-year-old was perfectly content to swing in his baby seat, buckled in safely, as my other children took turns pushing him and amusing him with their songs and games. Who needed a battery-operated swing set now? I thought. I could finally get a break from pushing now that my children could “pump” themselves and help each other. Sneaking from the lively swing set toward our house, I imagined the myriad ways I could spend my newfound time: I could catch up on the seven loads of laundry breeding in the hamper; I could read that novel I’d begun four times; I could go to the bathroom alone; I could . . .

Then I heard it. “Mom! Mom! Push us!” Looking back at the swing set loaded with my half-dozen children, I saw something I had never seen before. In the rhythm of their swings, that metronome-like to and fro, I saw the passing of time. I saw six beautiful children, completely capable of keeping each other swinging, completely content, and completely . . . grown. I understood then that in all those years of pushing my children on their swing set, the pushing was not the important thing. Granted, a battery-operated motor or a sister or their own two legs could keep them swinging. What was important to them was that I was there all those years, listening to their songs, hearing their happy voices, laughing at their jokes, and gazing in their bright eyes as we enjoyed our time on the swing set together.

I discovered that the swinging was not the thing. It was about love. About being a mom. About standing beside them, each of them, even when they were independent enough to do something without me. It was about being there simply to love them as they did what they loved to do. My children still wanted me there: to listen, to smile, to encourage.

But no longer did they need a mom to push them. Then it hit me. Soon my children would need me to do something much more difficult than push: they would need me to let them go and watch them soar.

Cristy Trandahl

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