Pump It Up!

As a child, I was below average for both weight and height. Not much has changed in my thirties. Most activities requiring physical interaction with other people have always seemed very daunting. I am also a germ-a-phobe and claustrophobic. This collection of qualities makes things like spelunking, contact sports and camping laughable notions to me. But, I am determined not to pass my fears and worries on to my children.

Luke, our three-year-old, has already started exhibiting many phobias, however. He doesn’t like swimming, crowds, new foods, bugs, heights, rainstorms, water fights, the Incredible Hulk, button down shirts…you get the idea. Well, yesterday we were invited by a family friend to a birthday party at a place called “Pump It Up.” This place is basically a giant warehouse filled with massive inflatables that kids go into and bounce to their heart’s content. Great idea, right? Well for most people without thousands of neuroses, it would be.

I knew Noah, our highly physical, dare-devil would be fine. In fact, he updated me on his levels of excitement the whole way to there. “Mom, I am a little excited,” he informed me as we backed out of the driveway. “Mom, I am medium excited,” he said as we merged onto I-75.
Then as I started unloading the stroller and diaper bags in the parking lot, he started jumping up and down shrieking, “Mom! I am SUPER excited!”

As expected, my Bull in a China Shop ran into each inflatable head first and was soaked with sweat within the first five minutes of us arriving. I am not sure he even remembered to wish the sweet birthday boy, Kai, a happy birthday until we were in the parking lot getting ready to leave.

Meanwhile, cautious little Luke wanted nothing to do with the noisy, unstable, terrain of the inflatables. He played on the oversized foam blocks in the corner meant for children half his age. He slid contentedly down a two foot slide, his feet reaching the bottom after he’d slid down six inches or so. And he really tried to convince me that this was so much fun, but I wasn’t buying it and I wasn’t about to let him miss out on all the fun with the other kids the way I had as a child.

I dug deep and pushed aside my fears of the germs that probably coated every surface of the giant castles. I mustered up my courage to face that group of unnaturally tall four-year-olds who seemed to be running the place and grabbed Luke’s hand and said, “Come on.” I pulled him toward an inflatable in the corner where very few kids were bouncing.

He pulled back and wailed, “No! I am afraid.”

I bent down next to him and said, “I am too. I need you to go with me. I want to be brave like Noah. Look how much fun he’s having!”

Luke looked over at Noah running with the giant preschool-aged wolf pack and frowned. “No,” he said.  But I could hear a hint of possibility in his tone.

“Please?” I begged. “I promise, we won’t do anything crazy. I just want to go down the slide one time. I need you to help me climb to the top.” He didn’t say anything, so I knew I had to act quickly. I tore off my sandals cursing myself for not wearing socks (plantar warts, here I come). Then pulled Luke through the much too tiny, net covered door (like that’s really going to stop anyone from falling out) and together we stood trying to keep our balance like two people walking on land for the first time. We stumbled over to the grimy inflatable steps. I got behind him and pushed his bottom up the narrow incline. We climbed slowly and then a big five-year-old tried to muscle past us.

“Hey dude, can you wait for this little guy to get to the top please?” I asked as politely as I could trying to sound cool and not at all like I was freaking out about being sandwiched between the sweaty child and the vinyl wall. He sighed with annoyance and I raised my eyebrows at him. He looked away then bounced out of the inflatable.

Luke stared down at me. “I want to get down, Mommy.” The corners of his mouth were pulled down in a very serious frown.

“Lukey, we can do this.” I squeezed his hand and shoved his butt up the ladder feeling the netted walls closing in on me. My head was brushing the ceiling at the top of the slide and I was having difficulty breathing. I started laughing at myself for how pathetic I was. Luke scooted himself between my legs and actually had a smile on his face. “Ready, Mommy?” he asked pointing down the slide.

“Yep!” I hugged him close and we zipped down the slide together.

He squealed with excitement but when we got to the bottom he said, “That was NOT fun, Mom!” Ugh, seriously?!

That’s when Noah bounced in, sweat dripping from his hair and neck and said, “Hey Lukey! Come down the slide with me.” I smiled at him and pushed the wet hair off his forehead. Luke looked up at me and asked me to go down the slide with him again. Thankfully we made it up faster than before and weren’t deterred by the two or three other kids who joined us.

So Luke and I started having fun. Noah pulled him down the slide. Together, they broke the rules and climbed the slide, making the other kids upset that they couldn’t go down it and I didn’t say a word because Luke had this big, happy grin plastered to his face. I was proud of him. To be honest, I was even a little proud of myself. Germs and tight spaces be damned, we did have fun!

I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people. But sometimes this whole mom thing really does require me to push my limits and let go of my worries. We survived it. No one was injured and Luke may even be more willing to do the bounce house at the church fair later this summer. And I haven’t even noticed any warts yet- bonus!