There are a few things I have to re-learn every time we go there, mostly to do with physics. It's $7 a head for the kids but adults are free because they encourage parents to get in the inflated playgrounds and keep their own children from bludgeoning themselves and others. They also let the parents play in there a bit, which I love, but it means I have to go in with a heightened level of self-awareness. I can be a bit of a "Lenny" and it's a compounded problem when it's not just my kids that are in danger.
In tenuous situations like these, when I have to move, I try to time it carefully because the energy transference from a 225lb man, through a big inflatable castle, and into the descending feet of four preschoolers landing at the same time, is remarkable. It reminds me of the experiment where you drop a basketball with a tennis ball on top of it.
To make it easy I mainly just hold still with my arms at my sides, but that's problematic too. I end up creating a sort of black hole into which children are drawn.
As you can see this is due largely to the deep pucker I create in the fabric of space-time/bouncy-house, but there are other forces at play as well. Namely, I've found children are drawn to the novelty of a professional basketball player sized man/boy who's clearly excited to be playing in his socks in the middle of a weekday. This oddity is irresistible to boys ages 3 to 7 and, to be honest, it give me the willies. I can NOT get enough of my boys running at me full speed and launching into a spine wrenching embrace, but little snot-covered mystery kids doing the same thing gives me the creeps. I usually just fling them off instinctively, like when you find something wet on your hand and you're not sure what it is or where it came from.
By the one-hour mark the Ritalin starts to wear off and a few of the 7-year-olds start getting a bit frothy, but generally the other kids there aren't too bad. The chubby sweaty 6-year-old with the "Awesome Crusher!" monster truck t-shirt apologized immediately after kicking a soccer ball into Finn's face as hard as he could. Fortunately all the balls there are made of a special squishy material that only stings for 30 seconds.
|It's getting kinda 'Lord of the Flies' in here. Little help?|
I figured it was time to try some of the other options offered up at Pump it Pump. This was the first time I'd been there with the boys where they got tired before they got injured so we'd never explored the three other options. Option one was the air hockey table. Finn tried to make a grab for the puck while two other kids were playing and immediately got his finger smashed.
|So much for injury-free|
Option two was the game where you pay a dollar to maneuver a claw down on top of a shitty stuffed animal so you can watch the jaws snap shut an inch above their target...every fucking time.
Option three was "The Vortex". This is a cylindrical chamber into which you trap your children while violent winds blow at them. They're happy to go into the thing, but the time it takes you to get your two dollars fed into the machine is exactly the amount of time it takes for the kids to get completely freaked out and start screaming for freedom. At this point you have a choice: either hold the door shut as they bang at the glass, tears streaming in the wind OR eat your two bucks and let them out. I went for the latter.
So we didn't quite make it for the full hour and a half, nor did we escape the place injury-free, but it was still worth it for the nap that followed and for something else so sweet that I hadn't noticed until that day; the boys really rely on one another. It's so cute it melts my brain. It made me think about their past two years together. From the beginning it was rough for Liam. He was not into this whole "having a brother" thing. But now they're the one constant in each other's lives and they're starting to show real affection for one another, in that lion cub kind of way. Who knows, maybe we'll see a hug by Christmas.