For the first time in weeks Leta asked for a balloon on our trip to the grocery store this afternoon. They’re free, put out by the dozens for all the people who have to grocery shop with their 14 children in tow, and she used to ask for one each time we pulled into the parking lot. But that stopped when one day there were no balloons out for the taking, and being the quick-thinking Master Parents that we are, we immediately plugged the first sob of agony with a free lollipop from the in-store bank. And now that free balloon obsession is a free lollipop obsession, and if the bank ever runs out of lollipops we’ll just move on to another desirable object. Like cigarettes.
Today’s balloon was red, a BIG! RED! BALLOON! And I think the only reason she asked for it was because it was hovering over her head at checkout, like, HELLO YOUNG HUMAN, HAVE YOU HAD YOUR TANTRUM YET? She acted as if she had never before seen a balloon, and on the way out to the car she clutched the ribbon in her hand and skipped all the way to the door, if you could call that skipping. Leta is still working on the details of her gross motor skills, so it was more like she was puffing up her chest and slowly walking on her toes, as if she were trying to give the illusion of skipping. It looked exactly like Elmer Fudd trying to sneak up on Bugs Bunny.
Once we had pulled out of the parking lot, though, her euphoria quickly dissolved into anguish because she couldn’t get the balloon to sit next to her on the back seat. Every time she pulled it close to her, she’d let it go and it’d float right back to the ceiling of the truck. Because, I don’t know, IT’S A BALLOON. When God made balloons, he made them float. They teach this in high school chemistry.
So there continued to be much disapproval of this SCIENTIFIC PROPERTY in the back seat, and how do you tell a three-year-old, look, dude, there’s this thing called helium, and it’s lighter than air, so guess what? BALLOON. You can’t make a balloon exhibit not-balloon behavior unless you pop it, and there’s no way I’m into that scenario when you’re obviously feeling so vulnerable. Although I’m sure your father’s curiosity about your reaction to a balloon popping far outweighs his concern for possible trauma. But he’s a father, so that’s not surprising.
We tried to explain it to her in every way we could think of, but she wasn’t having it, so we endured the hysterics until we got home and could distract her with other things. Like porn. And she quickly forgot about the balloon, all the way up until bedtime when I had the bright idea of comparing the BIG! RED! BALLOON! to the dog, Walter, in the bedtime story. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to make things click in her head, because Walter suffers from chronic gas, so chronic that it makes him float. In the air. As gas can sometimes do. Happens to me all the time.
Jon showed major signs of being uncomfortable with this comparison, and I still don’t understand why. Yes, intestinal gas and helium are not very much alike, but sometimes you have to bend the rules of science in your favor. Have you seen what the Pussy Cat Dolls wear? THEY DO IT ALL THE TIME.
If the dog is floating because of some gas on the periodic table, that’s close enough for me. But like his mini-me hours before, Jon was having none of it, didn’t want to confuse his child further, and as he tucked her under the covers he said, “The only lesson we learned tonight, Leta, is to fart when you feel like you need to, okay?” And after shooting me a mencing look over her toddlerbed, he leaned down, pulled back her hair and whispered, “Otherwise? You’ll go floating through the air.”