Before I had children, balloons gave me great joy.
They were flying, shiny rainbows you could hold in your hand. How cool is that?!
Then I had kids, and realized that balloons are the very worst things, EVER.
The speed at which children graduate from loving a simple primary-colored 50-cent latex balloon to salivating in manic need over a $19 3-foot-tall mylar Dora the Explorer will give you whiplash.
You have no choice but to give in to the desire for mylar, because who is going to crush the hopes and dreams of their beloved child over a damn balloon on her birthday? Not you!
The delight in her eyes upon seeing Mylar Dora tied to her chair the morning of her birthday swells your heart with goodwill. Everybody wins!
Then the days pass, and you realize that Dora is haunting you.
She floats a little lower and lower, becoming a crinkly creeper that silently watches you with her snake eyes from breezy dark corners of your home, mercilessly bobbing up and down with the beat of your vengeful heart.
But you cannot kill her. Oh no. No matter how hard you’d try to hide her beneath crumpled tissues and confiscated American Girl magazines, your kid would discover the slashed-up silver and brown bits in the trash, and scream at you like the murderer you are for killing her best friend.
Her vewy best fwend in da whole why world, Mama!
Prepare to live with Mylar Dora for a solid six months, at which point she stops floating altogether. Some big holiday will come up, delivering a new obsession that allows enough distraction for you to deftly origami that bitch up and deliver it to a public wastebasket on the outskirts of town in the dark cover of night.
Your only expeditious option is to hope one of your kids’ friends accidentally pops it, so you can shake off the murder rap and heal her wounds with plentiful ice cream and a new Dora DVD (buy headphones to make it less annoying).
Once you’ve purged the madness of mylar, you’ll be footloose and fancy-free until you head out to buy your kids new shoes and the kindly old sonofabitch shopkeeper comes out of the back room with latex balloons for each of your unsuspecting offspring.
Immediately you’re out of the blocks, hurdling entire families, making your way across the room to the shopkeeper while shaking your head for the love of all that is decent, NO, but he is too busy smiling down at his adorable new favorite customers to notice. They catch his eye, squealing in glee, offering up their wrists as if receiving The Crown Jewels of Childhood so he can tie them on.
Soaked in despair, you pay the man and head outside where everything in nature tries to steal your kids’ Happiness Bubbles from them: wind, low-hanging tree branches, the sign for the town library. They all reach and pull, twist and flip throughout the eternal five-minute walk back to the minivan. By the time you unlock the car doors, their thudding alien song is echoing in the far recesses of your torn soul.
Then, despite the 100-plus square feet of your vehicle’s interior space, each balloon secured to your children will somehow end up directly in your face or under the brake pedal while you attempt to drive.
Not so fancy-free anymore, my friend. Not free at all.
If you do make it home alive, prepare to be asked 400 trillion times to retrieve the balloon from the ceiling. Sure, you may think you are clever, tying an additional 10 feet of ribbon on each balloon to prevent this, but the cat will chew it off, then barf it back up on your whitest rug, which you won’t know is happening until you step off the coffee table during retrieval attempt number 400 trillion and one, directly into pungent kitty vomit.
As you softly curse in the bathroom while washing your foot off, at least one of your kids has taken to the hidden Sharpies collection and drawn a face on her balloon.
Then, there’s no going back.
Congratulations! You now have a balloon grandbaby.
Thought it was hard trying to kill Mylar Dora? Try offing your own latex grandchild, who is 98% smiling head and 2% nipple. Such an innocent little pup!
AND HE’S FAMILY NOW.
Break out the doll stroller and toy bottles, someone’s about to play house for the next 96 hours straight with a goddamn piece of pink latex. Weeeee!!!
Interspersed with times of momentary contentment will be all-out brawls between your kids, because no child likes to see a balloon not in his own hand. Sharing it is not an option. Neither is Indoor Voice while discussing the matter.
I don’t care how violent those Roman gladiator battles were back in the day. You ain’t seen nuthin’ until you witness two little kids in a fight over who had the balloon first. Or last. One of those things. It’s all too distressing to keep track of anything anymore.
Now you have the sheer pleasure of breaking up fights, fetching balloons from the ceiling, and reminding kids they can’t chew on these Toys of Death for at least a week, at which point they will accidentally pop or naturally deflate, crushing your children’s hearts into a million pieces.
Cue the Adele playlist!
But don’t worry: Their misery won’t last long, because faster than you can say “Evite” another balloon (or 12) will make its way into your home, reminding your kids what joy is again, and essentially ruining your life, because balloons really are the very worst things ever.