Hank “the Tank” was about to turn one year old, so what more perfect theme could there be than a camouflage army party? I couldn’t think of anything more fitting, so I found some pin-spiration online and set out for the party store. My stars must have lined up perfectly that day, because I found a pile of camo-print party decorations-covered with big red tanks even-stashed on the back clearance wall! Jackpot! I giddily bought up everything they had, and while checking out with my bounty I happened to glance over to the wall of big fabulous mylar balloons.
There it was. . .a huge camo TANK! It was the perfect finishing touch to my decorations, so I bought it and a matching camo balloon bouquet to go with it. All I could think about was how cute it was going to look floating above my perfectly camo table-clothed dining room table. I was making this (almost) pinterest-worthy party happen! On very little sleep! AND for half price! Yay me!
I had absolutely no idea the true impact these six balloons would have on my son’s life. Or my own.
Party day arrived, and thanks to my cake-baking partner/sis-in-law, I had the three layer tank cake finished-complete with a spark throwing chocolate wafer “cannon” and a plastic army man popping out of the top! I was certain that adorable cake and the cupcakes topped with plastic army men would be the delight of Hank the Tank. Boy, was I ever wrong.
Daddy had volunteered to go pick up the balloons since I was decorating while the birthday boy napped, so they were already floating majestically over the table when I carried him out after he woke up.
When that little boy saw those big shiny balloons, it was absolutely electric. Hank lit up like a little blonde lightbulb! I set him down and he crawled frantically over to the table and pulled himself up on the table leg, squealing what would come to be dubbed “the balloon squeal” and pointing up at them as hard as he could. I got tears in my eyes as I watched him be more excited about these six balloons than I had ever seen him be about anything else.
All day long, Hank would point emphatically at his balloons and let out the balloon squeal. Feeding him lunch in his high chair was a riot, as he would take a bite, then point and squeal at the balloons. Another bite, then another point and squeal. The. Entire. Meal. Later that afternoon when guests starting walking in for his party, they were greeted not with a wave like usual, but with a crazed point at the balloons and the balloon squeal! Hank was more concerned with his party guests seeing his balloons, than he was about anything else, the entire evening. Cake? What cake? Presents? Sure, but did you see my balloons? Hey you guys, check out my balloons!
Anyone who helped him practice walking or carried him around or helped him ride his new four-wheeler around the kitchen got forcefully redirected over to the table where the balloons were. [Pointing] Did you see my balloons? [Balloon Squeal]
Post-party, those camo balloons took on an even more important role in Hank’s life the week of his birthday. They actually became his comforter in a way that I thought only a mommy could be. To our rough-and-tumble Hank the Tank, the boy who loves no lovey, and drags no security blanket-a big tank balloon and five plain green ones had suddenly become his coping mechanism for everything.
When Hank did an impressive face-plant crawling at mach one across the kitchen, the tears started pouring. As I scooped him up and tried to calm him with mama kisses like usual though, he turned his face, stuck his pointer finger out in the air toward those darn balloons and sucked in his quivering lip. Those crocodile tears dried up like magic!
When Hank got a stern “No-no!” from mama after chucking his pasta down on the floor instead of into his mouth at lunchtime, again the lip started to quiver. Rather than start to cry though, like usual, he suddenly flashed me his brilliant 8-tooth smile and pointed as hard as he could at those balloons. [BALLOON SQUEAL] I know I just threw my lunch on the floor, but mama, look at my balloons!
Sigh. As much as I loved that those balloons delighted him, and had even given him some new-found resilience; I didn’t so much love how he thought they were also spectacular enough to distract his mama from dealing with his naughtiness. As much as I hated to admit it, that adorable little not-yet one-year-old had outsmarted me. The overflowing love he had for his balloons was so endearing that I let the food-throwing go. Just for for this one special week, I told myself.
Helium runs out, eventually, right?
Amidst all the learning-to-walk crash crying spared by the balloons, and even the (kind-of funny) naughtiness cover-ups; what my sweet Hankers and his beloved balloon bouquet taught me was simple yet powerful. In this often difficult life, if we can just focus on what we really love when times get tough, everything will be ok. So far, I’d say it’s working for him!