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 Mimi. I was ecstatic to sit for a few hours while Monkey bounced his little self into a birthday party induced coma. I watched my little guy scamper off into one inflatable contraption after another, but it was an ominous one called “The Gauntlet” that should have come with a warning
The Gauntlet was different from the rock walls or round bouncers he happily bounded across during the party 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 Monkey disappeared into the tubes of The Gauntlet, I started talking to another party-goers dad. After a few minutes I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I heard faint cries above LAMFO’s Party Rock Anthem.
Do you hear something?
Am I imagining things?
But after a few more cries, I realized it was Monkey panicked and screaming for me! 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 in to fish him out.
When Monkey emerged, he was terrified, tear-stained and wanted out of the bouncy house hell. After a while, he bounced a little in a safer inflatable, but he and I never forgot that dam Gauntlet
After that episode, every time we received a birthday invitation to that bouncy house, I sent up a silent prayer he wouldn’t remember getting stuck or 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 both 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 he was still upset. I told him he was 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.
Two weeks later, his best buddy had his party at the same place, 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 Monkey booked it over to The Gauntlet. I panicked, but this time something pretty awesome happened.
He conquered The Gauntlet all on his own, and his face when he came sliding down to the bottom was priceless. I imagine this is what a Heisman Trophy Winner’s mom feels like. OK, that’s a bit much, but it was pretty awesome. My pal Coco caught this photo of Monkey 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 is pretty rad.