Monday, 14 July 2008

Up, up and away

We go to an art gallery. The art gallery is handing out free balloons. Don't ask me why the art gallery is handing out free balloons. The moment I set eyes on these green helium delights I ask myself that question a hundred times. Each time it's a bit more despairing than the last. The only answer I have is that the art gallery wants me to suffer and go straight to Hell because that is what a helium balloon in a child's hand means for a parent.

Don't tell me otherwise. I have never yet seen a parent bound up to the giver away of free helium balloons shouting in delight Balloons! BALLOONS! Hey everybody! Have a BALLOON!

No. Parents do not do that. They cringe. Like me. They try and make themselves invisible. When that fails we all become deaf. 'Can I have a balloon?' whispers Tinkertop Moonbeam, clasping your hand and looking straight at you with her liquid child eyes. 'I'm sorry, I can't hear you' is your reply. 'It is the acoustics/music/noise/children/elephant/all the fault of the people of Sumatra that I cannot hear you. Now speak up.'

Then Tinkertop Moonbeam will be forced to shout out her request and hopefully will become so sullen and surly after screaming it out twenty times that you can reply 'No. Not at all! You are shouting, crying, and kicking me in the shins. That's not the behaviour that's going to get you a balloon, is it?' Then you can carry her home in the ironing board position because, let's face it, that's what's going to happen anyway. But with this method at least you can dispense with skewering the balloon with a breadknife in the kitchen to release all your hatred of free helium balloons. And I guarantee you will feel like the world's most wretched and crappiest parent when you skewer Tinkertop's precious balloon to the kitchen wall with a kebab stick. Now you have to lie, and say it got caught on a saucepan. And as part of your penance and to stop the sobbing you have to humbly promise to go back and get another one.

Better I'd say to incite the temper tantrum early and avoid getting the ruddy balloon in the first place.

Well that tactic worked fine. Until now. Because Squirrel just got brave and bold enough to go and ask for a balloon on her own account. Then, when she has done that, leaving a mamma in shock and terror behind her, she proceeds to go up and get a second and third one for each of her sisters. The free giver of balloons looks delighted. Now they have something to do instead of stare in bemusement at the faces of scowling parents and howling kids. Shark and Tiger meanwhile both have looks on their faces like they have never seen a balloon before, and start skipping and prancing around in the art gallery, looking dangerously close to the art which is incidentally propped up on bits of wood.

That observation leads me back to the question, Why is the art gallery handing out free helium balloons in the first place? This is as crazy as that Family Day Art Event we turned up to a few years ago and they put the kiddy scissors and crayons on the art table right next to the Hockney. I mean, is that normal? Does that happen in a gallery near you? I have never come to terms with that. I squeezed myself so close to that Hockney to prevent Tiger adding her bit that I got told off by the gallery staff.

Well of course the inevitable happened to a green helium balloon lightly grasped on a slender ribbon by a prancing Tiger.

If it had popped I could have dealt with it. I am proud to say that in turning popping balloons into a positive experience we are now uber parents, because everytime a balloon popped in the last eight years we jumped up and down with joy. Partly because that expression of joy was true, but partly because we were trying to deflect the anguish. 'Make a wish! Make a wish!' we would cry as if someone just told us we won the lottery and we didn't need to even buy a ticket. 'When a balloon pops all the good fairy wish sparkle bursts out and drenches you in fairy wishes! Make a wish!'

I'm not saying we didn't have to refine this approach with cautionary tales, like remember there are things fairies cannot do, e.g. sweets, horses, trips to Venus, and having no sisters. But they can do a video of the Aristocrats and a bowl of popcorn.

Well of course Tiger's delightful green art gallery balloon just floats off to the ceiling. And with it goes all Tiger's euphoria and delight in the world, leaving everything down on the ground pointless and rubbish and hopeless, and probably, to prove it, worth knocking over several hundred thousand pounds worth of modern art propped up on a stick. Mamma is at a loss to say anything useful and witters on about helium as lighter than air and don't you remember? We did this experiment at home, while you sat under the Thomas the Tank Engine balloon two days and waited for it to sink back down to the ground, then cried because it was a whole lot smaller and we had to say that's because a mischievous magic unicorn steals the helium on the way down to inflate his horn.

Squirrel is a lot more pragmatic and probably will make a much better scientist than Mummy Grit, and possibly Tiger, who now thinks the world's elements and physical processes are manipulated by invisible fairies and unicorns with floppy horns.

Yes, Squirrel is a pragmatist. She just goes and gets another one.


Pig in the Kitchen said...

oh evil evil balloons. I have banned them in my house. People try and thrust them at me after parties, they probably think they can palm off four balloons in one fell swoop. But i am ready for them, 'no thank-you, i don't allow balloons in the house' i say as primly as tho a skewer has been inserted into my rectum. They are astounded that i can be such a killer of joy. I stick to my guns. I've had too many screaming raging kids running around the house ready to kill each other because a balloon has popped. I suspect that balloons are the cause of most of the problems in the developed world and sub-saharan Africa.

(cut them gently around the neck with a pair of scissors - the balloons i mean - the air will hiss out quietly. and if it's helium, do remember to suck in a lungful and at least make yourself giggle whilst you sing 'love is in the air')

crayons? next to art???

Grit said...

i agree, pig! they are evil and stand as the gatekeepers to hell.

and now i am convinced i have widespread support, i am minded to start an anti free-helium-balloon campaign.

Maggie May said...

I did enjoy reading that post! They look so pretty but can cause a riot between siblings!

sharon said...

Balloons, oh the arguments there were over these! I banned them too Pig in the Kitchen. Actually I'm sure I read something recently that said the world is running out of helium (I don't think this is one of my 'senior moments')... tell the girls it is ecologically BAD to have helium balloons. Other balloons are a waste of rubber (or whatever they make them from nowadays), when in doubt always go for the dwindling resources option! I bet there are loads of unwanted objects, or even behaviours, to which you can adapt this reasoning....