I look into the mess of bouncing, banging, falling children running at top speed into walls and each other.
Bouncy castle. Stuff of my nightmares.
At least one kid is screaming, two are wrestling, and one big sister is squishing her little brother with a giant blown up pillars that look a lot like intestinal villi.
That’s how I imagine this thing to be: a giant digestive system. I’ll insert my child in one end and receive her out the other, smashed, crying and changed by the destructive forces of child-powered “fun”.
“Mo bug, I think you’re still a little too little,” I say, taking her hand and leading her away.
“Mama! I not too little. I want to try!” she says, pulling her hand out of mine. I look down, a little surprised. She’s not angry. She’s earnest, her big blues eyes filled with confidence and anticipation.
I look to Andy, who subtly shakes his head, no.
I look down at Mo.
And then I’m sucked down a wormhole.
In a gut-wrenching moment, I am transported to times in the future when Mo will look at me and say “I want to try Mama!”. Moments where Protective Mama will immediately say no, trying to shield my Forever Baby from hurt, embarrassment and harm. The Big Slide, No Training Wheels, Tough Classes, Varsity Tryouts, The School Play, Driving, Dating, Growing Up…
I take Monica’s hand again, “OK, Mo. You can try.”
She removes her shoes and socks with delight, hands the carnival worker her $3, and jumps right in.
Did she fall down? Yep. Did she get plowed over by big kids? Absolutely. Did I watch every single moment, breath held, fists clenched? You bet your reading eyes I did.
Did she have a fantastic time?