Like most children, my kids love balloons. They are fought over with rapture for the balloon and despise for the other child, one desperately clinging to the "belly button" of the balloon and the other digging fingernails into the round top. Shouts of, "Mine!" are yelled back and forth as the balloon, once egg-shaped, quickly becomes long and thin and starts to look as if I could twist it into a poodle, if I knew how.
This is the point where I take the balloon and hide it in the shower. I close the door to the bathroom and tell the kids that the balloon is in time-out. Then of course, both kids cry desperately for the poor balloon stuck in time-out when it should be playing, having fun, and apparently being made into a poodle.
You'd think that before my son was born balloons wouldn't have been a problem in our home. Obviously, part of that is because Megan was an only child and didn't have anyone to fight with over the balloon. Even though she didn't have anyone to pull the balloon's bellybutton away from her, balloons were not welcome in our house as far as my husband and I were concerned. I can't remember why we were so against them, but they must have offended us some how. It's probably the fact that I can't make a single balloon animal without popping it.
Whenever Megan received a balloon I would let her play with it until nap or bedtime and then I would sneak out of the apartment with the balloon and a pin. In as much secrecy as you can get in the outdoors, I'd slowly insert the pin into the balloon and let all the air out. I never dared to let it actually pop. Afraid of her hearing the loud POP, wake up, and get upset over the loss of her favorite air-filled toy, I always insisted that the balloon lose it's air slowly and quietly.
When I was pregnant with Megan I read in a book that since babies and kids are close to the ground they will find all kinds of things on your carpet and on the ground. You've got to be careful, the book warned, to watch your child and make sure they don't eat anything they find on the floor. Well, what the book didn't say, was since they are so close to the ground they do a lot of looking up. Every time I take my kids anywhere they find balloons floating at the top of the ceiling. You know how Wal-Mart has those super high ceilings in the grocery department? Every time I go grocery shopping there is apparently a new balloon that someone hasn't held a tight enough grip on. "Boon!" Jeremy yells, while looking up so high I can see every booger in his nose. Then Megan looks around frantically as if Jeremy spotting it first means he might get first claim to the balloon floating fifty feet high.
"Where? Where's the balloon?" She quickly finds it and seems to think that if she can point it out, too, then she will have an equal claim to the balloon that is out of reach and out of budget.
Most balloons they find are the shiny, metallic balloons with Disney characters, or are in the shape of birthday cakes, flowers, or hearts. I never received one of those balloons as a kid, and I really don't feel any need to bestow one upon my children. Plus, they cost about $5 a balloon! I can buy a pack of plain balloons that I can blow up myself with my own hot air that won't fly away, or get stuck on the ceiling out of reach, causing me to constantly be reaching up for it or rescuing my children from climbing the bookshelves, oven, bed headboards, and bathtub wall. All this for 99 cents. I always blow up two balloons, sometimes four. This way each child will have their own balloon to play with and there will be no need for a fight. But the number of balloons doesn't matter. A fight is always what comes up because one child doesn't want to share. Once again, that's when the balloons get thrown into the shower for a time-out.
Then when the day is done, I take the balloons outside and quietly as possible, deflate them.
My children do not know that I am a balloon killer. In fact, I've only admitted it once to a very good friend that I knew I could trust to keep my terrible secret. My husband knows, but only because it's difficult to keep such a secret at the end of the day. The guilt of ruining their beloved balloons and the fear of knowing that the following morning the first words out of their mouths will be, "Where are the balloons?" keeps me willing to talk to my husband about my problem.
Maybe one day I'll seek help to overcome my fear of having balloons in the apartment, the fear of the arguments they bring, even when each child has their own balloon, the fear of the kids bouncing on them and popping them, then begging for another one.
One day I'll let my children play with balloons. One day . . . when they are 18, at college, and living on their own.