He proceeded to announce that he wanted to jump off the swing, so that’s what we spent the next long while doing. I’d give him a big push, and he’d hurl his body forward to face plant on the mulch a few feet away. After the first rough landing, I was nervous he’d never try it again. But again, he leapt. Probably twenty or so more. With that, he teaches me there’s always time to finesse the landing.
In the realm of psychotherapy, some therapists talk about inner child
work. It says that many of us have wounds from our childhood, and it could perhaps become our life’s work to uncover them, and to nurture and heal them. If you are a follower of Julia Cameron
, you're well aware of her lesson that we're all creatives, it's just that we need to tap into that inner child. And beyond all that on the most basic level, we have tons of literature
to back up the importance of play (free, fun, imaginative, unstructured and spontaneous activities). Adults who play are found to live longer
, and they're found to have better cognition and memory than those who don't. On a neurological level, "Play looks like an emergency but isn't. It's a simulated emergency. The frontal lobes win out over the reflexive phenomena in the back of the brain." We can enjoy and experiment, without the adrenaline and endocrine response of an actual dangerous situation—like the tiny nervous flutter you might get on the playground as an adult.
I spent countless hours on my childhood swing set as a kid. I can still feel the rope beneath my fingers, the sun-faded orange rubber seat, and hear the rough squeaks as they chirped the higher I soared. Would it have occurred to me that the same legs I used to get that high could also catch me if I jumped off?
With my nephew’s adorably innocent wisdom apparently rattling around in my psyche as we explored the turtles and birds of Virginia's suburbs, I announced to my mom: “I wish I’d caught fireflies in a jar as a kid.”
She looked at me incredulously and goes, “Of course you did!”
? How could I have forgotten such a memory? And yet, perhaps there are many things I once knew, but have since forgotten. Like how to toss a frisbee, how to make art without comparing it to anyone else's art, how to eat an ice cream cone without thinking about the sugar, how to lose track of time, how to make up games in the car, how to swim in the pool until my fingers turn to raisins. And, maybe even: how to jump off that swing.
Ah, well. I’ve got all summer to practice.
Here’s to remembering,