BALLOONS

I believe it’s important to allow children to experience the
consequences of their choices.

At least, that’s what I told myself, to mitigate my guilt.

Let me back up.  Last
Friday, while my girls were still on spring break, I took five-year-old Little
Bit to work with me for the morning.  This
is always an iffy proposition, because playing by herself is not usually Little
Bit’s favorite thing.  She prefers to
spend her time asking her scientifically impaired mother questions she can’t
answer. 

(Side note: thanks to WolfmanGage’s cogent explanation, I
was able to answer her question about sound in space.  Thanks, Wolfie.)

But that day she filled her backpack up with Kelly dolls and
accessories and played with them happily for about 2.5 hours while I toiled
away at my grant proposals.  As if that
weren’t enough, she behaved beautifully through a thoroughly boring errand to
the brokerage.  No whining, no fussing,
no yanking on my hand or “let’s GO Mommy.”

So, when she asked to be taken to a restaurant for lunch
instead of going home, I figured she’d earned it.

We had a lovely meal at Billy McHale’s, and on our way out,
Little Bit was given a balloon.  And what
a balloon it was!  Purple, bigger than
her head, on a long green ribbon.  Truly
an excellent balloon.

“Let me tie it to your wrist before we go outside, Little
Bit.”

“No, I don’t want it tied to my wrist.”

“Ok, well, I’ll hold it while we’re outside.”

“NO Mommy, I can hold it.”

Well, Little Bit successfully made it to the car with the
ribbon still in her fist.  During the 15
minute drive home, she told me she was going to stay outside and “fly my
balloon” when we got there.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.  If it gets away from you, it will be gone
forever, and we are NOT going back for another one.”

“I know I know.”  But
she didn’t really know.

I’m sure you all can guess what happened.  Little Bit took her balloon out of the car,
watched it wave and dance, and then the wind, which cares nothing for the
feelings of little girls, ripped it out of her hand.

I can still hear her howl of anguish.

My child came in the house weeping.  I told her she’d been warned.

“But I didn’t KNOW,” she cried.  And of course, she didn’t.  She’d held tightly onto that ribbon, but she
did not recognize the power of the wind.

It took every ounce of my strength to refrain from getting
back in the car and going back to the restaurant to get my baby another big,
purple balloon.

Little Bit sobbed in my arms.  “It was the best balloon in the world!”

“I know, sweetie.”

And the gut kicker, “This is the WORST DAY OF MY LIFE!”

“There will be other balloons,” I lamely reassured her.

Why?  WHY didn’t I
insist on tying it to her wrist?  I had
failed her.  I was responsible for her
tears.

After 15 minutes or so, she was over it.  But me, I’m still shaken.

 

 

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30 thoughts on “

  1. Poor Little Bit.  That’s a hard lesson to learn, and it’s so much worse for the parent!  Next time she gets a balloon, though, I’ll bet she asks you to tie it to her wrist.
    Kathi

  2. you did the right thing. I’m always tentative about balloons anyway, as that latex can choke them once it pops and they insist on playing with the popped balloon bits!

  3. There probably isn’t a child on earth that hasn’t watched helplessly as the wind carried their balloon off.  Next time will be different.  She had to learn this lesson.  Stop obsessing!

  4. Let’s hope this really WAS the worst day of the rest of her life.  Although the lost balloon temporarily broke her sweet heart, from here on in everything will be happiness.

  5. Oh that is such a sad story. I am resisting the urge to fly out there and take her back for another one. Poor little bit, she didn’t know? Maybe you can tell her it went to balloon heaven to be with the other lost balloons.

  6. It was a very good lesson.
    I keep remembering the tearful little girl I saw once at a petting zoo.  Our passes into the zoo consisted of tickets that they tied around our wrists.  When I heard this little girl crying, I turned around and saw two things:  the bare remnants of a ticket on her wrist, and a nearby billy goat.
    It was more funny than it was sad, because her mommy was good at reassuring her she would not be asked to leave the petting zoo.

  7. It was a very good lesson.
    I keep remembering the tearful little girl I saw once at a petting zoo.  Our passes into the zoo consisted of tickets that they tied around our wrists.  When I heard this little girl crying, I turned around and saw two things:  the bare remnants of a ticket on her wrist, and a nearby billy goat.
    It was more funny than it was sad, because her mommy was good at reassuring her she would not be asked to leave the petting zoo.

  8. All parents have that happen to them (and have lost balloons too). She is a very smart little girl and she will know better next time. (Of course, the scientist in her may insist on replicate trials…). You gave her the gift of experience. You did the right thing.

  9. You did the right thing. She will know better for next time. But it’s heart-wrenching to watch our children learn these lessons.Last week I freecycled our change table, which we haven’t used in three months because Em is fully trained. A lovely young woman came to pick it up, and I carried it out to the front porch for her. Thirty seconds later, a heartbroken little girl was sobbing on my lap because I took away her change table. “You need to bring it back in.” she repeated over and over. I should have told her that someone was coming to take it. I still feel guilty.

  10. Well you did tell her, but you can’t blame her for not understanding as you mentioned. Its just the little things that teach them to be more critical and responsible about everyday stuff. If my mother didn’t leave me to cook over a fire stove when I was nine, I’d probably be still struggling with egg sandwiches like some of my friends.

  11. These life lessons are difficult to watch, but important for them to endure. How would she ever learn that it could be lost, if the balloon were always tied snugly to her wrist? However, I’m pretty sure a scientific question will follow this episode tomorrow, so have some answers ready. . .

  12. Well, my kids INSIST on loosing their ballons 3-4 times before allownigme to tie them onto anything wrists, belt loops, coat zippers. AND They usually decide after not losing it once they are safe again to no tie it anywhere. I figire it’s their ballon to keep or lose, and not worth the tears for pushing my ballon containment that would ensue if I did. We lose alot of ballons in my house. My kids are stubborn. Or think they’re invincible and can change the universe. I haven’t quite figuired out which yet.

  13. better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved before…Seriously, next time she will know! Even the THOUGHT of losing a balloon kept my daughter from accepting any for a long time. She would say, “No thanks – it could fly away!” Too much stress. She’s loosened up a bit – she got one from Trader Joe’s yesterday and she tied it to her wrist AND to her purse… just to make sure.

  14. “and then the wind, which cares nothing for the feelings of little girls, ripped it out of her hand.”  I loved that sentence!  And I think the guilt will get you either way.  You’ll feel guilty because you didn’t do enough, or because you did too much, or because you got so sick of doctor visits that you cancelled one and even though your daughter is still fine, what if she hadn’t been…wait, that’s me.  Never mind.

  15. I remember how I hated having my balloon tied to my wrist.  You did the right thing, and Little Bit is smart.  I bet she’ll remember this the next time she gets a balloon.

  16. You did the right thing. I know what you mean, though. When my daughter was that age, and that upset, it used to just about kill me. Hope you both feel better.

  17. Natural consequences (as long as it doesn’t put Little Bit in danger, or hurts others) do teach valuable lessons.  It’s harder on us parents….but what she learned will last her a life time….

  18. Oh… It’s so heartbreaking.. The mom in me says that. The logical side of me says, “you warned her”. .. tuff to find the middle ground.

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