His intentions were honourable. In fact, they were outright kind. But with kids, that’s not quite how it works.
I stood there in Bunnings two weekends ago, trying to shove my credit card into the machine, at the same time as stopping both of my children from running directly into the line of other people, like human lawnmowers, levelling everything in sight.
I’d been drip-feeding them with crackers for the previous twenty minutes. The safe period to be in a warehouse full of sharp metal things with a two and three year old had been stretched, we were now in the danger zone.
As I scanned my final item, the grumpy dude with the beard approached. He’s the one who looks at you sideways at the returns desk, proof that changing your mind over a purchase is a character flaw. He never smiles, instead wishing that he was practising in his thrash metal band.
I was ready to apologise for my weak character, when he handed me a balloon. And then another.
“Here you go, mate,” he said
“Thanks,” I said, utterly surprised.
And the girls were ecstatic.
* * * * *
As we left, one of them blew away.
A second later, the other burst.
Each event led to a pained squeal, the one akin to sawing a limb off with a toothbrush. The one that signifies that this is the actual moment – because it always happens in a single moment – of the loss of childhood innocence.
For both of them.
Harper was in floods of tears, watching as a balloon blew off in the wind. Asher stood in the doorway of Bunnings, wailing at anyone or anything who would listen. She kept bending down, next to the scrap of burst balloon, like the skin of a flayed sausage. She desperately tried to pick it up, each time threatening to poke herself in the eye with the sharp white stick that comes with it.
All around, people looked. Some smiled in understanding, some frowned at the idea that children make any noise at all. Another lady just glared.
‘Balloon murderer’, her eyes said.
I skulked back in – skulking as much as you can when you’ve left your trolley in the doorway and your children pull you in different directions. The bearded man handed me two more balloons. His eyes narrowed, having returned to his usual study of my flawed character.
The wailing ceased instantly. We had two more balloons, on sharp sticks. I loaded them in the back of the car, with the girls, driving home as quick as I could, before the sharp white canes caused further need for white canes.
* * * * *
On the weekend, we returned to Bunnings. For a little ‘dad and girl time’. The moment we pulled up, Asher started trumpeting:
‘Boons! Boons! Boons!
Somehow, balloon amnesia had taken grip.
Luckily, this time they were there on a cardboard stand. I grabbed two, quickly checking with a man in red and green that this was fine. And we were on our way.
On the way out, one burst, and the other blew away.
I can’t wait to see both versions on Candid Camera.