Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The Bounce House: A gateway drug.
"Guys, we are going to a party tonight."
[My boys: hands start shaking, sweat dripping off their miniaturized brows.]
"WILL THERE BE A BOUNCE HOUSE?!"
"No. It's just a barbecue in our friend's backyard."
"CAN THEY GET A BOUNCE HOUSE? OR JUST A BIG SLIDE?"
"No, those are expensive."
"But Dad, we NEED, we NEED! How are we supposed to LIVE Dad? I mean... HAVE FUN?"
"Well, I'll have to call my dealer."
I am not sure what things are like in other parts of the country, but it seems that almost every outdoor summer party in Utah has to have three fifty-foot-tall rubber castles towering over the festivities like climbable fortresses of air.
When I was a kid, these bouncy things did not exist. We had to make due with swings, teeter totters and metal whirl-e-go-rounds with sharp edges and metal head-bang-poles. If we wanted to bounce, we had to visit the neighbor's 5 foot high, net-less trampoline. Ultimately, this endeavor would end by someone getting catapulted into the clouds and then landing spread-eagle, with a jagged spring in their crotch.
Ah yes, the dreaded crotch spring. It's why the professional trampoliners wear cast iron cups.
I loved bouncing and I once bounced on a Pogo Ball for five minutes, but thankfully, that is exactly how long it took for the Pogo Ball fad to end.
The truth is that these bounce houses, giant slides and obstacle courses are actually quite fun. Never mind the occasional head-to-head collision or the overbearing soccer mom that screams at the other children for jumping too close to her precious baby wearing the $200 Gymboree outfit.
Even I have attempted the "slide of death", resulting in a nasty rubber burn that ripped the hair right out of my legs. From that point forward, I was known by my American Indian friend(s) as, "Clumps-Of-Hair-On-Slide-Pouty-Eyed-Dork". Indians come up with the most clever names.
So perhaps you are wondering: How much of an impact have these insolent bags of 90 foot hot air had on my kids? Allow me to illustrate an example from our recent past...
Friday we were to attend a neighborhood party with a bunch of people that we mostly like. (I say "mostly" because that jerk Jack was there with wife again. I once drove Jack to his yoga lesson and he didn't give me any gas money.)
At this party, tradition suggested that there would be three enormous bounce houses and countless crying toddlers. (Not to mention the obligatory Beach Boys cover band and their three ancient members. Well, two by the end of the night.) Our boys were completely aware of this party and their excitement reached fever pitch when the day arrived. The only problem was that they had bickered almost non stop that day. I had used the party as verbal leverage to get them to stop.
It's just something good fathers do.
"OKAY, that does it! We are NOT going to the party tonight."
"But... but... DAD! What about the bounce houses?"
"There will be no bouncing tonight. No bouncing, no jumping, no falling on top of the rich kids, NO FUN!"
[The tears stream, both real and fake. Mostly fake.]
"Daaaaaaad. Come on. What can we do? The bounce houses!"
"You can go if you cut off your thumbs."
[4 year old runs to get a knife]
"No Calder, I was just kidding. Okay, you can go if you both wear a girl's dress."
[Contemplating] "No dad."
"Last chance. If you want to go, you have to eat a tomato."
"GROSS! NO DAD!"
"Well, that's the deal, take it or leave it."
The boys the each gagged down a fresh tomato from the vine - seeds plummeting across their chins and onto their shirts as if they were Bear Grills eating a juicy maggot.
They have never jump-housed a jump house like they jump-housed that jump house on that night. Tomato guts will have that affect on kids.