By Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
As a parent, especially of a young child, you’re reminded often by those with more parenting experience not to take anything for granted. Someday you’re going to miss those sticky handprints on the glass, they tell you. You’re going to miss being nudged out of the bed by the tiniest person who somehow manages to take up the most space. You’re going to miss, if not the temper tantrums, the little arms reaching towards you in search of comfort as those tantrums subside.
I’m not sure how much of that is true. I’m fairly new to this fatherhood gig after all. But I suspect there is real wisdom behind those cliched sentiments.
I suspect this because I already smile at little mementos and reminders of sweet moments. Like yesterday, when I found the cut end of a balloon in my pajama pocket.
A few days before my son had asked me to blow up a balloon. Not just any balloon, but a red balloon. The last red balloon in the package. And he wanted it filled with helium.
We bought one of those small, cheap helium canisters for his birthday party. The kind where the helium only lasts for about a day before the balloons start drooping. Since then, we’ve sporadically used it to inflate balloons for him, with a favorite game having daddy bop the balloon down to the floor, so he can try to grab it before it rises out of reach.
So, when his balloon descended from the ceiling to the floor, and he wanted it to float again, he came to me asking me to, “put more air in it!”
Now, normally I’d just abandon that balloon, fill another red balloon, and he’d be content.
This time though, there were no more red balloons to fill, and it had to be a red one. I asked if I could fill an orange balloon. I tried to sell him on blue. None of those would do.
“I want you to put more air in this one!” he insisted.
And I almost said, “No.”
I almost told him it was impossible. That I couldn’t untie a balloon. That he’d have to pick another color, or go without.
I almost broke his tiny heart.
But what did it hurt to try? What else did I have to do with my time that was more important than spending time on the floor with my son?
I seriously doubted I’d be able to untie it as easily as a knotted bit of shoestring or twine. The rubber of the balloon, once it’s pulled tight, just doesn’t allow for the kind of movement you need to undo a knot. I knew that going in, but I tried anyway.
Of course, it didn’t work.
But then, I thought, what if I cut the end off very close to the knot? It might shorten the distance enough for me to begin working the knot out, then the friction and expansion of the rubber as it released could help with the rest.
There was the danger it would pop, or that I wouldn’t be able to refill and tie it off again. It would probably lead to tears as well, and I would need to comfort him. But at least I would have tried.
So, I did. And it worked.
The knot came undone, and it left enough of the end for me to stretch it over the helium dispenser and fill it. Tying it was a challenge, and I had to let some of the helium out – much to his delight as I inhaled it and talked like a chipmunk – but I was able to make it work. I tied it off to a piece of baling twine and he had fun running up and down the hallway, trailing it behind him, for a couple of hours.
I put the cut end in my pajama pocket, to throw away later, and forgot about it. After a couple of very busy days, I came home, slid out of my jeans and into my lounge pants, and reached into the pocket to find the balloon end from a couple of days before. It was a tiny reminder that all I needed, to do something I was ready to dismiss as impossible, was his faith and a willingness to come at it from a different angle. My son believed I could untie a balloon, so I did.
And now I’ll keep that reminder in my desk drawer and treasure the memory, and the lesson, forever.
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