© 2007 Brooke Allen
Originally published in International Family Magazine
After we decided to move to Tokyo but before we all did, I went by myself to find us a home. I started by looking at playgrounds and parks.
Arisugawa Park is a lovely place, named for a Japanese prince. It has a flowing stream that starts at the top of a hill and ends at the bottom with a fishing pond. Its wonderful playground had many barefoot children playing in the clean dirt and on an assortment of equipment.
I observed two mothers and their young boys.
One mother looked Japanese and the other American. Their sons were playing on the swings. The boys were trying to go as high as possible. After a few minutes of building momentum, the Japanese boy flung himself from the swing. His mother saw this yet seemed unconcerned but the American mom interrupted the conversation, ran to her own child, and began scolding him. “Don’t you dare do what he is doing! You will hurt yourself.”
She returned to her friend. They resumed chatting and the two boys resumed swinging. As the Japanese boy would fly from the swing the American boy would look at his mother pleadingly. Twice more she interrupted her conversation to remind her son of what harm might come to him if he were to attempt a similar stunt.
Her behavior was beginning to annoy her Japanese girlfriend.
Then something amazing happened.
The Japanese boy went flying farther than ever before. He landed on a tree root and fell forward. He cut his chin on the trunk.
He began to bleed and cry.
The American mom immediately started to run, but her Japanese friend grabbed her by the arm and pulled her behind a bush. The Japanese mom watched her son intently through the leaves. As the boy looked around frantically, it was clear that he had no idea where his mother was hiding. The crying lasted but twenty seconds and the bleeding perhaps another thirty. Soon he composed himself, wiped the blood from his chin, and returned to the swing. While he still would jump from it, he now seemed to be more interested in precision than distance.
Breaking free, the American mom ran to her son. Waving her finger, she said, “See. That is what can happen to you.”
The American boy stopped swinging altogether. Then he began crying.
The Japanese mom wanted to continue their conversation, yet her American friend was too upset.
I made a point of walking past them on the way out of the park. I overheard the American woman say, “But I love my son too much.”
If you believe that loving someone and protecting them from all harm are the same thing, then you can love someone too much.