Mrs. Stick-in-the-Mud or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Bounce Houses

Before the vomiting and fever that struck early Sunday morning, it was a typical Saturday afternoon. A thunderstorm had rolled through the night before and rain continued to fall that morning. By the time the rain stopped and the sun came out mid-morning, fall-like temperatures had settled and our backyard looked like a swamp.

I took Philip on our usual Saturday morning visit to the library, and he was napping shortly after noon. I took a nap, too, since the anxious dog had kept me awake most of the thunder-filled night. When both Mommy and child woke up, I needed something for us to do.

The backyard was out. If the temperatures had been warmer, I would have been less concerned about letting Philip play in the mud to his heart’s content. I knew there was an apple festival nearby, but by the time we awoke from our naps it was too late to make the drive there.

That’s when I remembered a sign I had spotted in a yard up the street. A local church was holding a free Family Fun Fair. The church is only a couple minutes’ drive away, so I thought we would give it a try.

The fair had been going on since late morning. For some reason I had pictured that the free activities advertised on the sign would be carnival games in the church basement. When we arrived, I saw that the street beside the church had been blocked off to accommodate tents, corn hole, refreshment tables, face painting and bounce houses.

Bounce houses.

Back in May, Philip had his first experience in a bounce house at the end-of-school picnic. Since he loves to jump on his mini-trampoline (and our bed and the couch and the recliner), I knew he would love the bounce house. Of course, he loved it so much at the picnic that we literally had to drag him out of it. Twice.
Fortunately, the school staff at the picnic knew Philip, so they were patient in dealing with him.

When I saw the bounce houses and inflatable slide at the church’s fair, I got a knot in my stomach. On the one hand, I know that the proprioceptive input is perfect for my sensory seeker. On the other, Philip often lacks spatial awareness and might crash into other kids. And of course, because he loves a good bounce, he might not want to get out. I was imagining myself inelegantly crawling into the bounce house and dragging my protesting son out in front of strangers.

We stood in front of the smaller of the two bounce houses for several minutes. A woman was waiting beside it with her two-year-old grandson. About half a dozen children were bouncing inside. Philip was holding my hand, rocking side to side to the music and watching the children.

Maybe he’ll be happy just watching, I thought to myself. A selfish thought, I might add.

I watched as the grandmother tried to coax her grandson into the bounce house. His also two-year-old cousin was already inside with the other children. After two false starts, the boy finally got brave enough to join her on the third try. When the flaps were open for him to enter, all but his cousin exited the bounce house. It was just one small boy and one small girl.

This is our chance, I thought.

I sat Philip down to take off his shoes. The staff member opened the flaps and Philip crawled in. He stopped just inside the entrance, perched on his knees and swaying side to side. The two cousins gleefully hopped and fell. Their bouncing sent Philip up and down, too.

Then, for whatever reason, Philip joined in. He jumped and jumped. He even fell to his bottom as the other children were doing. He looked so happy.

Unlike at the school picnic, there was no time limit. We had nowhere else to go, and there were no children waiting to enter.

I let him jump and be happy.

Twenty minutes went by when two older boys appeared. I braced myself for a fight.

“All done, Philip. Come to Mama,” I said.

And he did.

Philip reached his hand to my so that I could guide him out of the bounce house. He sat on the chair without complaint and helped me put on his shoes. No crying, no straining.

These are the moments that I try to remember. I tend to imagine the worse, but end up surprised by the best.

I know that letting Philip jump for so long made all of the difference. But I’m going to celebrate this success nonetheless. Kind of like this mom who got to enjoy something with her daughter that she didn’t think they would ever do.

Before leaving, Philip was given a balloon. He played with it at home for the next hour, tossing and kicking it. It was a fun indoor activity that no amount of mud in the backyard could prevent. The only thing that almost got in Philip’s way was a mom who can be a stick-in-the-mud.

We are both learning something new every day.

8 thoughts on “Mrs. Stick-in-the-Mud or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Bounce Houses

  1. oh my goodness…..I no the feeling too and think “oh no I’m being a stick in the mud” but the constant vigil and having endured the times when things have gone sideways is hard and makes us weary. I’m so glad that Phillip enjoyed himself but accepted the time limit you set etc. Celebrate this “YES” because it is a step forward that all kids go through but takes longer for our little guys. Psst…bouncy houses are hard but what about those crazy jungle gym apparatuses that McDonalds has or some indoor gym playgrounds that have slides and ball pits hidden in them? My mother n law felt like she lost my little guy in one when we were in New York City and after a while he suddenly appeared. So my heart was in my throat when he wanted to go in one in Vancouver… hubbie volunteered to go in if he had to. The only tears we had was when he was struggling to climb one challenging part of the structure and other kids his age and older were doing it easily….:(


    1. This is one reason I know I need to be in shape-I have to be prepared to follow my little guy onto playground equipment as quickly as possible. It’s hard to find a balance. In some situations, he is
      fearless, so sometimes I have to be afraid for him.


      1. I know what you mean:) me too….but then again I was pregnant with my daughter and I had to scamper up and help him when he did something and got stuck….people must have thought I was crazy but I was careful…he had to try.


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