The Lord of the swings

by Ken Williams


Swings are amazing things!

I’d never really noticed it until today. They have an amazing ability to create such happiness, and there’s nothing to them really – just a seat, two chains, a solid frame, and that’s it. And they’re so simple to drive; just throw your head back, kick your legs, add a little imagination, and you can fly to the moon.
So simple, yet impossible to accomplish without smiling!

It’s even more amazing to consider that in this technical age of computers, video games, and pizzas with cheese built right into the crust, that the humble swing still holds such wonder.
Could it be there’s more to the humble swing than we mere mortals know?

It is this wonder, along with my four-year-old son, Max, that stirred an emotion in me today that took my breath away. It came from nowhere, transforming me from a grumpy old couch-potato worried that the world had passed me by, into a child-like explorer that ran, and laughed, and played like I hadn’t done in years, and, as I put a tired little boy to bed this evening, with two soft little arms around my neck, I looked down at the most contented, loving, and albeit very sleepy face, and heard the words that just melted my heart, “You’re the best, Dad.”

Like the swing, the words are simple, but beneath the simplicity is a magic more powerful than I can ever comprehend.

Running after Max this morning; through the park, across the tan-bark, past the modern looking wiggly slide, literally through the sandpit, and straight to the swings, I barely had time to catch my breath when Max asked, “Dad, can you push me, please?”

Now, up until this point, I’d never really believed in magic, I mean, I know it happens, I’ve seen the bumper stickers, it just never happened to me. However, as I assisted my son into the air, marvelling at the joy in his expressions and the pure exhilaration as he laughed in that excited way he does, I felt a strange sense of déjà vu. There was something about the pendulum motion of the swing and the smell of the freshly mowed grass that reminded me of my own time in the playground; the wonder and sheer joy of a carefree breeze and the freedom of imagination. 

So, while Max swung to and fro through outer-space, I took a seat on the swing next to him, when suddenly, I was struck with an overwhelming urge to soar high into the sky. 

I resisted of course, I mean, what would the other grown-ups think?

So, I sat with my legs planted firmly on Terra-firma, when, the strangest sensation took me back to a magical time – when my tummy was much flatter and my hair a different shade of blonde – when I dreamt of being an astronaut and an adventurer; believing I could do anything and be anything. For I, was ‘Lord of the Swings’…
Suddenly, an uncontrollable force stronger than anything I’d ever known took control of my legs and began kicking at the air around me, instantly hurling me upwards.

Higher and higher I soared, feeling the wind whirl through my ears sending cartwheels through my stomach.
I held on for dear life as my legs, with a mind all their own, kept pumping the air beneath me until I was one with the birds in the trees, and then high in the clouds and, seconds later, I’d entered the moon’s atmosphere. And I didn’t care who was looking. Yippee!   

I’d found my inner child. It turns out it was exactly where I’d once left it – on a swing. Who knew? And who would have thought it would still be there after so many years?

Amazing things, swings!

Sure, they can’t replace the years I spent evolving into that grumpy old couch-potato, and they can’t alter the obvious misprint on my birth certificate that has me pegged for – ahem – 40 (I know it’s a misprint because my wife tells me the same thing happened on hers), but they have helped transform me into the person I am today, and can be again tomorrow. They have unearthed my child within, bringing me moments with Max to cherish forever.

They have taught me that all is okay, that there is still wonder, and joy, and time left in my life to embrace. For I am still; ‘Lord of the Swings’…

Actually I’m not Lord anymore; Max has informed me that he is, but that I can be his assistant (in other words, I can play Sam to his Frodo), and that’s cool too, In fact, I’ve discovered that when coupled with fatherhood, the power of the Swing is in balance.

You see, one will raise you up to the far reaches of the Universe – just as it did for me as I soared higher and higher, past the moon and on toward Mars. Until the wind suddenly changed, and I saw Max slowing to a stop beside me, and glaring with utter disapproval, “Hey Dad, stop swinging, you’re meant to be pushing me.” – And the other will bring you right back down to Earth. 

Fatherhood and the power of a swing have opened up a new world to explore.

And explore we shall, for tomorrow my wife has agreed to drive us to a bigger playground, with swings so huge they will lift us beyond this universe. Of course, on the way there, I’ll be sitting in the back with Max, and I can see us now…“Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”

Amazing things, swings.


© Ken Williams

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem