Saturday, 23 October 2010

A Child's First Helium Balloon - a Mother of the Year Award moment

There was this woman at the shops this week.  She had two kids with her, the littlest, a boy, looked to be about 14 months old. The older one, also a boy, asked about his fourth birthday next week about five hundred zillion times.  This woman was already looking frazzled when she arrived at the top of the travelator trying to keep a large box on the skateboard that should have been holding her older child who, instead, was roaming free through the strangely crowded centre.  I would hazard a guess that she had already done a school run that morning in the drizzling rain.  I watched this woman go about her shopping as sanity slowly slipped from her grasp, what follows is my account of her slow descent into shopping purgatory.  It's not pretty, but may it serve as a warning to others who find themselves in the same situation.

She seemed to have a job to do, she kept listing to the (almost) 4 year old what needed to be done. Over and over she explained to the child (who randomly throughout the trip appeared to drift in and out of deafness) that they had to return the stereo, collect their book they had on order and buy steel wool.  It was as she was heading towards Target that she realised the reason for the crowded centre. "Best & Less Grand Opening Sale" read the bright red helium balloon attached to a little girls wrist.  Well that would certainly explain the 3 buses parked outside from local retirement and aged care homes... and the higher than average number of derros at this particular centre.  She giggled to herself, "good on you, Best & Less. Grand opening on the Thursday of pension week... someone knows their target demographic!" She had no idea that her giggling would be so short lived.  Glancing into Target she decided she wouldn't browse today, she returned the stereo and headed back out, she seemed to need to use the loo but I can't blame her if she thought since it was going to be a quick shopping trip she'd just wait until she got home.  She was a woman on a mission as she headed straight down to the ABC shop ducking and weaving through the crowd of fake gucci bags, snot covered kids and grey hair... well, as best she could duck and weave with a pram with a skateboard attached.  There she waited, second in line, as one of those sweet grey headed grannies discussed with the only store attendant, in great detail, the variations between the three versions of "I'm a little teapot" on the CD's she had in front of her.  Finally as the attendant glanced up at her she quickly got out that she only wanted to get her book she had ordered.  Book purchased she left the store, her (almost) 4 year old upset because she wouldn't allow him to buy an overpriced "green" bag or a CD storer in the shape of The Stig's helmet.  She looked up, shining like an oasis in the desert she saw a cafe, coffee... surely that would help.  They stopped and she ordered the big boy a babycino and herself a latte and dug out water for both the kids from under the pram and a rusk from her handbag for the baby.  While they waited for their coffee they took out the new book and had a look through it... until the baby managed to spill water on it.  She quickly realised that today would not be a good day for stopping for a coffee but it was ordered now so she might as well roll with it.  The baby didn't want to stay in his pram and didn't want to sit on her lap, he wanted to climb.  The big boy got through his babycino and got restless... real restless.  Latte chugged down they went and paid and headed back out into the centre only to hear someone say "Bonds underwear 40% off"... She wears Bonds, she's been feeling a little like a saggy baggy elephant lately, she clearly needed new underwear... she looked up at Woolworths, it was a rusk-throw away, the last place on her list... she thought about how nice some new underwear would be...

That, my dear readers, is where everything went wrong.  This mother, this woman who claims to have everyone else's interests before her own, this woman let her mind wander to her own needs, all it took was an instant.  Please, delicate reader, if you are sensitive you may want to stop reading now, if you continue into the dark depths that follow you will surely never be the same again.

She veered left, she was doing it, she was headed towards Best & Less. She was offered so many opportunities to turn back, as she approached the crowds became thicker, the dense crowd of derros and grannies closing in around her, but on she forged, she had that one selfish thought in her head, come hell or high water, she was going to get new underwear.  They were right outside the store now, there was a mass of early 20's mums wearing band t-shirts, sporting either jet black hair with blond roots or home dyed orange blond hair with dark roots and pushing prams with children of various ages strapped in.  Was the store so packed that there was a wait to get in? No, little Mr (almost) 4 knew what was going on... "Please can I have a balloon, Mum?" Wouldn't you know it, the kid does know how to use manners!  They were all out of balloons... but he used his manners on the girl handing them out and she was so impressed she gave him the one they had tied to a promotional teddy bear and gave him and his little brother a teddy each.  Into the store they went, there was a crush at the front of the store but she expertly maneuvered without running over anyone's toes or crashing into ankles.  She was through, instinctively she headed to the less-crowded back of the store to get her bearings and track down some new grundies.  Oooh, towels, "that's right" she thought "I was going to see if Grandma can use her machine to sew a picture on a towel for each boy for Christmas"... She looked around to find the best but cheapest towels.

Suddenly her non-derro instincts kicked in, the sale tickets were all different.  It only took her a second to realise that very little was a genuine grand opening special price.  Most of their stock was regular price with the normal sale tickets scattered through that and there was the occasional tag advertising a "grand opening sale price".  The baby keeps looking up at his brother balloon and getting upset.  There are plenty of balloons floating around on the ceiling but they are way out of her reach, maybe if they have more as she's leaving the baby can have one.  Okay, she moved on from the towels, they would be the same price next week.  Where were the women's undies... ooooh, kids clothes, she'd just have a quick check there because her oldest finds Bonds undies most comfortable for his skinny little shape.  She turns away, even at 40% off, if they don't sell them in packs she can get the cheaper elsewhere... but that shirt is cute... and there are the plain red shirts that she'll need for their Christmas shirts... "Oops"... she sees the orb of happiness go floating up to the ceiling.  The baby sees it too and his gaze follows it up there and he sees hundreds of balloons floating around the store ceiling and he has a little freak out.  She gives him a cuddle and assures him if she can she'll get a new balloon for Mr (almost) 4 and one for him too but right now she needs to keep shopping.  Undies, she needs to find the women's undies.  Forging her way through the mass of prams and walking sticks she finds the underwear section.... apparently she wears a very popular size.  Searching and searching she manages to track down 4 pairs in her size and hangs them on the pram with the shirts she's already picked up.  She tries to head towards the checkout but is pushed in the other direction... she escapes before she sucked under the current and never seen again.  But wait, she's lost, where is she now? Men's underwear... oooh, those might be the sort of boxers her husband likes, and they are a genuine sale item, she grabs a pair and turns to head back to the checkout.  She does a quick inventory of what's on her pram, she spies the shirts for the older boys Christmas shirts, she really should go and get one for the baby from the little boys section.  Jumping back into the seething mass of pension spending revelers she lets herself be carried to the baby section.  She searches and searches and finds that plain shirts are not fashionable for the pensioner crowd, she'd have to find one for him another time.  She can see the checkout from here, there is a temporary set of registers set up to cope with the crowd and she has her sights set on it... She makes it, silently berating herself for this silliness, surely it would have been better to just say no to new knickers.  She has a chat with the checkout chick, the sweet girl notices her sons watching the balloons on the ceiling, the older one looking wistful and the younger getting increasingly upset.  She directs the woman to a male employee with a ladder retrieving stray balloons from the ceiling.

They finish the transaction and set chase... how he moves through the crowd so quickly while carrying a set up 8ft ladder is amazing, he goes up and down it in three different locations before they finally catch up to him to ask for a balloon for each child.  She ties the older boys balloon to his wrist and for the younger one she ties it to the front bar of the pram so it's right there for him.  Nice and close so he can play with the string and make it bob and swerve.  He's not happy, he pulls at the string and cries, he gets the balloon down and grabs it, it slips from his grasp and he cries again, he's pushing at the string, pulling at the string, fighting with the balloon and crying all the time.  He's tired by now, she grabs the balloon and pulls it down so he can get it and assures him as she wipes his tears they'll just get steel wool and go home.  She weaves her way through the centre and is relived to make it unscathed to the comparatively empty aisles of the grocery store.  Her baby is getting quite upset now, she passes him the balloon again and he holds it in his lap, hitting it and crying.  They grab three different sorts of scourers discussing with (almost) 4 how each one might be better for cleaning the coffee machine that the others.  The baby is still upset so she throws them all into the pram and they head for a checkout.

They left the store and were moving fast, they made it to the travelator and were out into the carpark in no time. She left the baby in the pram flailing and fighting with his balloon as she loaded the car and got the older one and his balloon safely into the car, next into the car was the baby and then his balloon.  She wanted to keep it close to him, he had, after all, been batting at it this whole time.  An idea struck, she grabbed his giraffe, and appeared beside the baby as she tied the balloon string around the giraffes neck, the baby watching all the time, she put the toy on the baby's lap and bobbed the balloon inside and closed the door.  More crying, louder crying, the baby was getting hysterical!  She got in the car, and flicked the balloon back into the baby's reach and he cried again, this time she saw behind his tears what she had been missing all morning, this fair readers is the turning point.  She saw terror, absolute fear behind his tears.  This baby had never had a helium balloon before, his love for balloons had been for the ones he could carry around, hold onto, they were unpredictable in a predictable way.  If he let go they fell to the ground and he could grab them again.  This monstrosity was forever doing it's own thing.  He had no control over it.  In his short life he had figured out one important law in science... that if you let things go they should fall to the ground.  This didn't, it was tearing his world apart each time it bobbed back up pulling it's little string taught and making his toy giraffe jiggle as it tugged at it's stuffing filled neck.  With one swift bat she jams the balloon down in the foot well and out of the baby's sight.  He looks at her, this time with a broken heart hiding behind his red puffy eyes, distraught that his own mother would put him through that suffering.  She whispers comforting words of love to him, apologising for not realising what he was crying about all those times she had been talking with him in the shops.  He gives her a slight smile and as if to say she's forgiven he gives a sleepy yawn and rests his head on the side of his seat.  Ahhh.  She heads for home.

Kind reader, this story has a happy ending.  Although he had an initial fear of helium balloons, that baby has now had the chance to slowly get to know the fun of a helium balloon.  He is no longer afraid and has completely forgiven his mother for her terrible parenting.  But please remember, all this could have been avoided.  If only that woman had never let thoughts of her own backside's comfort creep into her sleep deprived brain. And please my friends, when you give your child their first helium balloon....

Don't tie it around the neck of their precious giraffe.


  1. Yaya has that same giraffe! I never thought about a helium balloon having such an effect on a little one. Smart Smart Baby you have there!

  2. OH no poor little fellow!
    I used to purposely miss shopping on pension day because of the insane busyness of the centers - don't have that problem now as I generally do most of our shopping once a month!
    Hope you have a wonderful weekend

  3. You did better than I would have. I most likey wouldn't have realized the true issue behind the problem and would of just popped the balloon.

    I think the balloon looks adorable tied to the giraffe.

    Atleast you sitting comfy now>



  4. Thanks :)
    -- приобрести фильмы
    для сайта


I'd love to hear from you, even if it's just to say "Hi, I stopped by for a read today"
We love comments, we don't love spam. Too much spam means I'm moderating comments now and have put on an anti-robot word verification doo-dad, sorry.