My older two girls were around four and five when I woke up to myself and said they couldn’t have balloons anymore.
I’d like to pretend it’s for environmental reasons or something noble like that, but the fact is they drive me crazy on so many levels, and I just don’t need that sh*t in my life.
In confessing to this, I’m fully prepared for the usual suspects to decry me as a child abuser, an unfit mother, an arsehole, and they will howl about those poor, poor children being denied such a fundamental childhood pleasure.
Whatever. If I cared what every do-gooder thought about my parenting over the years, I’d be a nervous wreck unable to leave the house, so this goes in the same basket.
One day, after yet another balloon-related incident shattered the peace in my home, I had an epiphany: balloons are the work of the devil. They might bring joy and happiness to children, but they also bring so much angst to kids and suffering to their parents, and anyone else in the vicinity.
Thinking back to my own childhood, of course I loved getting a balloon at a birthday party or wherever. Opportunities to get the helium-filled ones were quite limited in my day. I think I only ever had a few of them over the years, tied to my wrist by my dad so they wouldn’t blow away, inevitably getting stuck high high up on the ceiling when it got back home, until it shrunk, looked sick, and fell back to earth. Most opportunities for balloons were the old skool ones blown up by someone’s breath. I’d beat my brother over the head with them or rub them on my hair so it would stand on end. So much fun!
As a teenager, I worked at Maccas and have memories of hanging out in the store room inhaling from the helium tank, and making stupid voices, blowing up balloons for kids’ birthday parties, blissfully unaware that I was an accomplice to giving children a helium-filled object to torture their parents with.
So. Much. Drama.
As an adult, I’ve come to learn the dark side of balloons.
Balloons cause meltdowns. They cause tantrums. They cause siblings to try to kill one another. And while I haven’t seen any statistics to back up my theory, they probably cause a billion fatal car accidents around the world every year.
Back when I only had one child, a balloon popping or flying away caused a meltdown, no worries about it. But it was usually short-lived and you could distract the kid with something else and they’d soon forget all about their doomed globe of latex.
Add in another child and it all goes to sh*t.
You can have a house full of every single toy that your child’s heart has ever desired… but if they don’t have the five cent bit of air-filled latex their sibling is playing with, they will not give a single f*ck.
One kid’s balloon pops or flies away? The meltdown is sustained because they see their sibling’s balloon is still there. Then they fight over that one remaining balloon. The screaming intensifies. They’ll squabble and squabble over it, sometimes, that balloon will be a casualty of the roughhousing and will pop as well. Then, you’ve got two meltdowns going at once. They feed off one another, like demons feeding on the souls of the damned, and those meltdowns take forever to stop. Tandem meltdowns can induce headaches like nothing else. The more kids you have, the worse this balloon-related drama gets. Sometimes, siblings pop one another’s balloons deliberately. And round and round it goes.
This stuff was happening on a weekly basis. Sometimes, more than once a week. Because balloons are a scourge. They are everywhere…
Driving Miss Crazy
It seemed like we couldn’t go to a shopping centre without my kids being given either a helium balloon or one of those balloons on a stick to take home by someone doing some sort of promotional activity. They deliberately target mums with kids as they know they can reel you in to give you their marketing spiel because they’ve given your kid a balloon and you’ll therefore feel obligated to listen to their pitch about whatever they are flogging.
Well, that’s the theory anyway.
Instead, you’ll be left gritting your teeth and cursing them and the business they represent when those f*cking balloons with their company logo on them, no less, make it back to your car with you and almost bring about your untimely deaths four times on the 15-minute ride back home.
Kids in the back seat beating each other with helium balloons and squabbling and arguing is mind-bendingly distracting when you are trying to drive, but is the least of your worries when you have balloons in the car.
Balloons obscuring the view in the rear-view mirror? Check.
Balloons floating in to the front of the car and getting between your face and the windscreen and you can’t see what’s in front of you anymore? Check.
Random balloon being burst in the back seat with an almighty bang, frightening the sh*t out of you and almost causing you to drive into an oncoming semi-trailer? Check.
Said bang followed by mandatory ear-piercing howls and screams from a child who now sounds like she is being murdered, making concentration on driving virtually impossible? Check.
Balloons on sticks being turned into weapons that children can use the other way around to try to poke one another’s eyes out with in the car, causing blood-curdling screams that distract you while driving? Check.
Even balloons that are given to kids to be blown up later at home aren’t immune from causing mayhem in a confined space like a moving vehicle. All you need is for a kid to start blowing one up in the back seat and then once blown up, let it go so it flies around the inside of the car like a mini out-of-control airship, causing yet another distraction.
It’s okay to say no
After a week, where I realised that the biggest bullsh*t I’d had to deal with all week was caused by balloons on multiple occasions, I woke up to myself and said to the kids: “That’s it! NO MORE BALLOONS!” And I have had to stick to my guns.
In the beginning, it was hard. You will find people everywhere trying to thrust balloons at children. The worst offenders in my world are usually people with kiosks in the shopping centre trying to get you to sign your kids up for swimming lessons or those from a certain Pay TV company who think I look like someone who gives a sh*t about football enough to want to subscribe to their extortionate sports package. Politicians during election campaigns are pretty bad too.
I’ve told my kids if someone tries to give them a balloon, they do not have to take it. In fact, they should say “No, we aren’t allowed balloons”. It was a difficult routine to get into at first because they are kids and they think that you can be guilted into accepting balloons into your life by backpackers with sales quotas to meet in a shopping centre and they underestimate how much of a hard-arse you really are.
They came to realise in time that mum meant business. One time, they accepted balloons and I made them give them back. There was a full-on shopping centre meltdown attached to that, with screams and people staring. But I needed to remain strong. One last meltdown saved me from the ongoing weekly balloon meltdowns.
Balloon pushers hate it. They will try to manipulate you and shame you. I’ve had them say sh*t to me like “Oh, come on, mum! Let them have a balloon! Kids love balloons!”
And I let them know that I like getting home from the shops in one piece, so thanks, but no thanks.