The Gauntlet: Conquering the Inflatable Revisted

If you are new to this  parenting gig let me share a little something with you: there will be a time when your entire weekend is spent attending other children’s birthday parties. Don’t fight it. Just go with it, friends. Currently we are knee deep in preschool classmates birthday parties, but I’m cool with it because I get pizza and cake too.

Being at a birthday party at the local bouncy house and watching my son run wild through the inflatables made me think of a time when I would be holding my breath and praying for the party to be over. Oh what a difference a year makes. So if you missed it the first time, let’s revisit…

The Gauntlet: Conquering the Inflatable

The blaring music hurts your ears and you have to scream to talk to the person next to you. The bright lights are flashing strobes that make you dizzy when you walk, and some girl is crying in the corner. No, this isn’t a scene from a trendy club on a Friday night; this is a four-year-old’s birthday party at a bouncy house, and if the ambiance isn’t enough to make you feel a little trippy, the effects from the party will.

Our first visit to this assault-on-your-senses-birthday-party-venue happened when I was über pregnant with my daughter and my wasn’t even two years old. I was ecstatic to sit for a few hours while my son bounced his little self into a birthday party induced coma. I was completly content watching my little guy scamper off into one inflatable contraption after another, but it was an ominous one called “The Gauntlet” that should’ve come with a warning

The Gauntlet was different from the rock walls or round bouncers he happily bounded across because once a kid climbed into a little tube, you couldn’t see them until they reemerged sliding down a huge incline.  Honestly, you would have better luck sending your kid into a crack house hoping they coming out with less baggage and trauma.

Once my boy disappeared into the tubes of The Gauntlet, I started talking to another party-goers dad. After a few minutes faint cries started to rise above LAMFO’s Party Rock Anthem.

Do you hear something?

 When the cries got louder, I realized it was my boy!! Because I was the size of a whale, climbing in and rescuing him wasn’t an option so I sent the dad I was chatting with to fish him out.

Emerging from the bright blue tubes was a terrified, tear-stained boy that simply wanted out of  bouncy house hell. Every corner was packed with more inflatables, too many kids, and ear thumping bass music made it impossible to find a quiet spot to just sit and chill for a few minutes. Party fail for my boy.

Every time we received a birthday invitation to that bouncy house, I sent up a silent prayer he wouldn’t remember getting stuck or would be big enough to conquer the Mount Everest of inflatables.


At the next few parties I kept a close eye on him and put up a mom sized roadblock in front of The Gauntlet. This plan worked until I had to wrangle two kids solo at a party and they both took off in different directions.

I chased after the little one because she was likely to start a pint-sized revolt and overtake the cake table. It was like déjà vu: the music and lights were so bright and loud, someone was probably sent into a seizure, and behind all the ruckus were faint, panicked cries. He was stuck in the dam Gauntlet again. Crap…

This time he knew to get out the way he entered, but the damage was done. I covered him in kisses and told him he was so brave and so smart for getting out when he was stuck. I even offered to join him in The Gauntlet so he knew he could make it through unscathed, but he wanted no parts of that solution or most of the party.

Two weeks later, his best buddy had his party at the same venue, and I was fully prepared to bring a pair of scissors. You know, in case The Gauntlet looked at me the wrong way.    The party was in full swing when he booked it over to The Gauntlet. I panicked, but this time something pretty awesome happened. He conquered The Gauntlet all on his own. His face when he came sliding down to the bottom: priceless. I imagine this is what a Heisman Trophy Winner’s mom feels like. OK, that’s a bit much (not really, it’s totally what they feel).  My pal caught this photo of my boy and I celebrating his success.


He ran through The Gauntlet so many times, he was exhausted and needed a break.  


Maybe getting stuck in an inflatable isn’t the worst thing that can happen to your kid, but when they overcome a fear, now that’s pretty rad.



  1. says

    They have a few inflatable places around here where you can pay to play on 10 or 15 different inflatables for an entire day. Those places have inflatables much larger than the one you pictured and I have yet to see anyone get stuck in one :)

    • amushro says

      Well I am glad to hear that you’ve never seen a young kid get stuck because as a mom, having your two year old get stuck inside and see him so scared was awful for him and for me.

      • says

        I always see kids get stuck. My oldest has a thing and actually loves to go help littler kids get through the rest or get back to their moms. I love that she gets it. My littlest has been stuck before. So scary. He’s SO proud in that pic- way to go, little gauntlet overcomer dude!

  2. says

    Aww there is nothing like overcoming a fear at any age even as adults we have fears however when you can help a child over come a fear their whole life changes before your eyes. Awesome post!

  3. says

    My son is only 3 and is really hesitant of going into big bouncy houses. Sometimes he will try, and others he wont. I am happy he hasn’t been stuck though, how scary!

  4. says

    My kids love these! We haven’t been in one in a while – but its seriously so much fun for them when they do. Can’t say they’ve gotten stuck as of yet, but none of them we’ve ever been in looked this wonderful and huge! My 3 yo probably wouldnt even attempt – I remember when my now almost 5 year old was so scared he would hide behind my leg while the older kids went in them!

  5. says

    Oh I do despise the time spent sitting at those birthday parties – the noise, the crying the screaming..gah! My girls are old enough now that they are ‘drop off parties’ but my son is just getting into that stage. What I am afraid of with him is he will try to climb on the OUTSIDE of the inflatables and give me a heart attack!

  6. says

    I am a bit of a helicopter mom so I hate places like that where I can’t get to my kids easily. Fortunately the few times my kids have been invited to bounce house birthday parties, we didn’t have any incidents.

  7. says

    I never got caught in an inflatable as a kid, but I DO remember getting lost in one of the many caves that a local park had. Welcome to Missouri, where even the playgrounds are likely to have caves, haha.

  8. says

    These places get totally crazy. If we get to them when there aren’t many people there(somehow luck out), it wears them out. Love the pics!

  9. Pam says

    Oh gosh, this sounds like something that would have happened to my kids! They had some horrible experiences at Chuck E Cheese.

  10. says

    Haha, I so hear you on this! My son gets so excited and then freaks out. Yay for him overcoming his fear! Hopefully I’ll get there.

  11. says

    One good thing about homeschooling is we don’t have parties every weekend like a lot of our friends! That looks like an awesome inflatable and glad he conquered his fear!

  12. says

    Overcoming a fear is pretty cool – getting stuck inside an inflatable is not! And yes, my kid would be that kid – and I probably would have freaked out and gotten stuck trying to go in and retrieve the kid. Now THAT would be a picture. All’s well that ends well.

  13. says

    Good for him for conquering his fears. The Gauntlet looks rough, and I would put the big inflatable slide in a close second!! The only thing I hate more than bounce house parties are the skating rink, since I always envision headed straight to the ER.

  14. Shauna says

    Ha, ha, ha… what a great time and kudos for overcoming fear. That is never easy to do. When we go to bounce houses, I have a harder time getting Hubby out than the kids, ha

  15. Maria Oller says

    Wow I’m glad it didn’t happen to me yet be cause I would go nuts, I’m tiny tiny bit overprotective and would end calling 911 if that happens

  16. says

    Good for him for conquering his fear! My daughter loves these inflatables at a bouncy place near our house. Sometimes I get freaked out when she is bouncing away on them!

  17. says

    My daughter attended a birthday party at an indoor bouncy house place. She loved it at first but then got trapped! Always keep an eye on your kids in these- sucks if you get stuck!

  18. says

    Whether the kids get stuck and have to be rescued with the jaws of a sharp knife to pop that baby or not, it looks super fun! Ha!

  19. Amy Desrosiers says

    Oh my gosh, my kids got stuck in one at Fantasy Land and I had to get them out! I felt like a big freak in there!

  20. says

    Sounds like he got exhausted and had fun! That is always a plus for me! You scared me a second with your sign and then after reading and realized what it was, made me feel so much better!

  21. says

    I absolutely LOATHE inflatables.. but maybe it’s just me.. LOL My kids love them.. and they do tire them out.. just don’t ask mommy to go in..

  22. says

    Good for him! Some of those can get pretty intense…especially when they disappear and you can’t see them. Super fun, but only if you know how the heck to get out. Proud of him for you!

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