Editor’s Note: At Tweetspeak Poetry, we dedicate space to children’s poetry, not only because it’s enriching for a child’s life, but also because we understand that a love of the genre is often formed starting in childhood. Time and again, we hear this from poets, writers, and readers who share their Journey into Poetry with us. So, read a poem to a child today. And if you’re not sure where to start, check out our Best Children’s Poems.
Luke pulls me across the playground to the swing set. He points at the baby swing. “Up, ” he says.
I hoist him into the swing. “You want an underdog?” I ask him.
He shakes his head. “Just push, pease.”
As the swing goes higher and higher, he grins, then giggles, then laughs outright. “Me high as the sky!” he proclaims.
The words of a short children’s poem from a years-old Babybug magazine that I’ve read a bazillion times spring into my mind and I say them for Luke:
Up me up, Daddy,
Up me up high!
Up you go and down again,
My little pumpkin pie!
Luke grins big, and I remember Jack at his age, the hours we spent at the park, him in the baby swing, me pushing him with one hand while holding a book in the other. I got a lot of reading done that way. Like Luke, Jack could happily swing for hours.
They come by it rightly. As a kid, I was a swinger, too. At recess, my best friend and I would race for the swings, trying to outrun all the other kids and be the first to fly through the air. We’d synchronize our pumping so that we flew together, back and forth, higher and higher, till we could see over the ridgepole of the swingset.
Luke squeals with delight at a particularly forceful push that sends him flying high.
Another children’s poem springs to my mind, this one from a book by Eve Merriam that I’d owned when Jack was a toddler. Lost in our move seven years ago, You Be Good & I’ll Be Night had disappeared from my memory till I happened upon it in my favorite used bookstore two months ago. As soon as I saw the cover—an ample mama pig carrying her pajama-clad piglet up a set of colorful stairs—memories of reading it to Jack flooded me. At one time, I’d had much of this book memorized. So of course I snatched it out of the basket where it had been waiting for me and took it home to read to the twins.
Now, as I push Luke on the swing, the words of the Merriam’s swing poem, which I don’t even know I remember, pour out of my mouth:
Swing me, swing me, swing me round,
I don’t want my feet to touch the ground.
Swing me an hour, swing me some more,
swing me until a quarter past four.
Swing me till summer, swing me through fall,
I promise I’ll never get tired at all.
Luke says, “Underdog!”
I grab the back of his swing and push it high into the air as I run beneath him. I turn in time to see fear, delight, and laughter flicker across his face in the space of a second. “Again!” he cries.
I do it again.
“Just push, ” he says. So I stand in front of him and push the swing. My hands clutch and release his feet or his knees, grabbing him close and then pushing him away. He gasps and giggles with delight, and I can’t help laughing with him.
Ten years I’ve been doing this: coming to the park, pushing my babies and toddlers and kids on the swings, underdogging them, reciting silly poems, and watching their faces flash past, all joy in the safe freefall of the swing.
Photo by Boudewijn Berends. Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year and and a forthcoming memoir, Cracking Up: A Postpartum Faith Crisis.
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In August we’re exploring the theme Bottled and Canned.
- Top 10 YA and Children’s Books - July 25, 2014
- Literary Birthdays: Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night - June 13, 2014
- Literary Birthdays: C.S. Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, Madeleine L’Engle - November 29, 2013
Nancy Franson says
Remember the joy you felt when you finally got the hang of pumping your legs on a swing? And underdogs–my, it’s been forever. But, yes, the swing set was a central fixture in my childhood. In our community park, we had these weird swings we used to call rocket swings which were sort of like metal cages you sat inside, and they had handles to pull on to get them to go.
This post reminded me of another I read on Rabbit Room just this morning–about the way poetry can get children outside of themselves: http://networkedblogs.com/OwSjc
Kimberlee Conway Ireton says
I read that post when Zach first posted it over on Story Warren. I liked it then, too 🙂
Your rocket swings sound awesome.
Megan Willome says
Kimberlee Conway Ireton says
My mother always recited Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Swing” to me. . . and I do with my children.
I am so present in the moment when swinging the children along with the rhythm of the poetry.
Oh my gracious Alexandra,
Thank you so much for sharing this memory here and passing along that experience to your children!
I have so enjoyed pushing my grands in swings and recalling the days of doing the same with my own children:):)