• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Monday, September 26, 2011


About 5 years ago we spent some time on a playground with some of our grandsons. One of them has a birthday this week. Time has warped. How can I be wishing a Happy 12th Birthday to Jaidon? To me he has always seemed like the boy with a smile that quietly just helps everyone around him. I hope that NEVER changes.

Now he is not a boy.
He is becoming a wonderful young man.

Life can move so quickly that we can feel out of focus,
or almost invisible.

I had lots of fun on the playgrounds of my past AND learned many life lessons. From the teeter-totters (and other activities) I learned a lot about trust, and fair play. And that we all have more fun when we keep a good balance - not up in the air too much or down too low for too long. Balance helps maintain safe fun and prevent problems.

My elementary school had a super-size slide that only the big kids were allowed to slide down. There were other smaller, less taboo slides too. How big was big? I don't know - I wasn't. Did you ever feel like you just didn't fit? Were never ___________ enough?

 That said, I am glad I am not the child that later fell from the top and was permanently brain injured which sadness caused the joy of the long, tall slide to be dismantled. No one would ever be hurt by falling from it again. No one would ever shriek with the thrill of sliding down it either. I have never been sure which was worse - being injured or without so much fun.

Teachers took us out to 'play' in supervised exercise periods. Despite my smaller size I could then safely participate in my favorite activities - the teeter totter and the merry-go-round - because the teacher made sure safety rules were obeyed. I can remember trenches worn so deeply around the merry-go-round and at the 'foot' of each teeter-totter that it affected my ability to get on and off.

There were also big swings and smaller swings. Some kids would pump up really high and then jump off and fly  through the air. Some landed on their feet running and some landed in a heap on the loose gravel that covered the playground area. No one cared about a bit of blood on a scraped knee, elbow or chin and a few tears seemed just a part of life - you got over bumps and lumps and got on with the fun of being outside to play. I thought those kids were silly.  I liked to SWING on swings.  Still do!

My wise parents took us to play there when school was not in session. I learned to slide safely and it was no longer a big deal to me. I stopped wishing for the dangerous thrill.  I learned that it was all about control. (Just push your feet out against the edges to control speed).  And there was no pushing shoving endless line like recess. I only had to compete with my 9 siblings - and dad pushed the merry-go-round and swings.

Teeter-totters fascinated me.
And may fascinate me forever.

 Rhymes we sang still pop into my mind unbidden.
'Teeter-totter, bread and water, ...
The rest of the rhyme had an endless variety of insults or silliness we custom made for each situation.

Notice two of these guys are both ready to jump off and give bumps if not expected.
And the larger boys are playing with balance.

My grandsons showed me that teeter-totters shenanigans have not changed much.

There are still many ways to ride them and get off when needed.

I suspect many good life lessons can still be learned on a teeter-totter.

Neither up nor down is much fun in or of itself.

Mutual cooperation and trust are required. Part of the fun is being alert - trying to predict when you will go up - or down - and for how long.

And balance ... is it possible to keep both ends in the air?

Some kids used the teeter-totters to bully other kids with. I was only allowed to ride them when someone supervised. Often it was a big brother that would agree to do so; then I couldn't be given the bumps too hard or held up in the air for extortion. Often it was a brother on the other end of the teeter-totter. Then I ALWAYS got a few bumps!

Banging down unexpectedly is never fun. It is always important to guard against accidental (or on purpose) bumps. Preventing on purpose bumps, with alert counter-actions, can be part of the give and take but nothing was ever as much fun as a round of steady, back and forth ups and downs - feeling the power of landing and push off; giving control to someone you trust and having it returned in effortless friendship.

Such friendship, in our families and at other times and places, is built with smiles and service - small daily things done so quietly that they are often unnoticed and may be ignored in the blurred hurry of busy existence. Such small daily, constant things bring the greatest joys.

Quiet times bring back focus and clarity. I most often find myself less invisible while in unhurried service, as I allow the things that matter most to eliminate things that obscure and blur what is most important.

Keep smiling Jaidon.
And keep quietly doing small kind things.
That will make a difference -
for you and all around you.