It’s been about a week since I last wrote. There is one reason for my absence: Connor. He is on a short summer vacation. The special education summer school program ended the last day of July, giving Connor about two weeks of vacation before the August program starts up on the 14th. What I should write is that it’s giving me two weeks for building an aneurism that will surely blow once Connor is back in class.
In an attempt to keep Connor both away from the iPad and having fun we have spent the majority of the two weeks trying different fun activities in between swimming, gymnastics, and various therapies. We’ve been to the beach, to the aquarium, to the fair, to several different parks, etc. Yesterday I wanted to take him to a splash pad just down in the street in Westminster. Connor however wanted gymnastics. Well, I can’t just take him to the gymnastics studio and let him loose. I figured the next best thing would be an indoor bounce house called Frogg’s Bounce House.
There have been few times in my life that I felt such self-loathing as I did the moment after we crossed the threshold. If only I could be a lazier parent and not take Connor to do fun stuff. If only I had never heard of indoor bounce houses. If only every kid in a five-mile radius wasn’t inside of this building.
It took all of my willpower not to turn on my heel and walk right back out the door.
There were literally screaming children running everywhere.
If you had seen me at that moment I am sure that I looked deathly ill. While other parents there saw an hour of free time as their child played in a safe, exciting environment, I saw only over-stimulated children running rampant, like a pint-sized melee. It was as if I was Alice at the tea party and everyone was having a good time, and I was the only one screaming that this wasn’t a tea party, this was actually madness.
Let me give you some background on the children’s asylum…I mean on Frogg’s Bounce House. It is located in a strip mall near several budget stores and fast food restaurants. It is warehouse sized, allowing for several inflatable bounce houses to be erected inside. Only two of these bounce houses are typical to what you might find at a birthday party or church picnic, meaning they are just a large trampoline like area surrounded by netted walls. The others bounce “castles” involve inflatable obstacles, slides, race courses, etc. In addition to the bouncing there are several air hockey tables, video games, ride-in cars, toy trains, a play house, and countless other toys.
Children ran from bouncing to games to toys with no apparent plan or thought. They streaked past other kids in their euphoric haze to try the next great thing!
There are no attendants inside the gates of the Bounce House, which left me feeling eerily trapped inside the mayhem. All adults are responsible for their own children…which roughly 1 in 10 was actually doing. The majority of parents were reclining in the overstuffed couches strewn about the room, playing with their phones or iPads, looking very much like the older reflection of their children. Had this been a play center restricted on one age group or another, I would not have wondered at these parents’ lack of parenting. But the range of preschoolers to pre-teens had me wondering why no one was actually watching their child!
The unfettered freedom theses children had, along with the endless delights had me feeling like I was trapped on Pinocchio’s Island of Pleasure. I kept waiting for donkey ears to sprout from someone’s head or to be whipped by an ass’s tail as a child ran by!
Not wanting my own child to turn into a jackass, I kept a close eye on him. I tried to trust him. I know his behavior has been improving and he can interact appropriately with children his own age. I know this and still I knew. I knew that it was coming. If tantrums had footsteps, they would sound like the inside of the Bounce House.
So I watched and waited.
This picture was taken in the first 10 minutes of our visit. Connor is calm but having fun. Yay!
This was the last time I could get him to stay still.
As he bounced around the various houses and castles, as he chased after children, after he abandoned toy for toy, I could see sanity slipping away from him. It was like watching his nervous system overload before my own eyes!
His movements became jerky, his running faster, his voice became louder and higher pitched. He started screaming for joy. He ran into other kids on purpose. His laugh transformed from giggles to something truly maniacal.
I knew the time was near. Tantrum’s hand was on my shoulder, watching with me, waiting to pounce.
I tried to calm him. Every time I neared him, I held his hand and pulled him near me telling him softly to calm down. All I got in return was a look that said he wasn’t entirely sure who I was and what the words I was speaking meant. He squirmed from my grasp and ran off.
I stalked him to the play house near the back of the building. Two ruthless blond girls had denied him entrance earlier, which Connor had accepted gracefully. He was apparently back for revenge. The girls were nowhere to be seen. An adorable young Asian boy about Connor’s age had taken their place. He didn’t know he was already standing on the landmine. The boy let Connor into the house and they started to play together. It was going well, but alone now, I knew that the Tantrum had possessed my child and was just lurking under the surface waiting to strike. The other boy tried to leave the house, but Connor closed the door and pushed him back into the house, effectively keeping him holding him prisoner in a plastic faux-log cabin.
Before more violence could erupt, I rushed the house, pulling Connor out and placing him in a nearby bean bag for a quick time out. Violence is met with zero-tolerance. The eyes that looked at me from the bean bag were full of defiance and hatred. I wanted to search his hair for the beginnings of donkey ears. I never got that chance. Connor’s tightly strung, relatively calm demeanor shattered into a thousand pieces as Tantrum truly took over.
Fighting off kicks to the shins, I picked Connor up and threw him over my shoulder. I felt something not unlike rescuing a brain-washed hostage from an enemy camp. Though he cried and beat at my back, the tears stopped as soon as we left the building. He whined and cried the entire ride home, but never once about the bounce house.
I think Connor recognized that he was out of control. He could feel the mania and do nothing to stop it. Once at home he went to his room and calmed down on his own accord.
And though he never said this out loud, I think he was grateful when I removed us from the bouncing madness and vowed never to return. If he wasn’t, then he’ll forget it in time and I will not be the one to remind him.