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…
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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.