A moon bounce and a small child can be the ultimate nananapoopoo to a parent. “I see you and you can’t get me. What are you going to do…… get in yourself and drag me out?”
I’ve seen this taunting power struggle played out many times at church bazaars and in-door play places full of blown up fun. I’ve gone through this game with my own kids. Last spring, I joined forces with other parents to coerce their children out of the moon bounce I volunteered to operate at a street carnival.
Standing outside the moon and watching the grins on the faces of child after child for hours made me realize that a moon bounce can be a big step in a child’s awareness of their separation from their parents and the individual power they possess. A milestone of personal freedom, contained within the walls of air filled plastic. Parents watch from the outside. Aside from the occasional bumping of heads, children are safe as they bounce, play and interact with others. When it’s time to go, it can also be an opportunity for age appropriate rebellion.
Watching Vienna and Gideon, my seven year old and five year old, on a moon bounce a few weekends ago, I realized how their squeals of joy and freedom must be similar to the experience that my oldest son, Tyler, is currently having at college and being away from home for the first time.
Alicia and I trust that Tyler is relatively safe. But, at the same time, he is in total control of what we know about his life for the first time. From small decisions such as eating healthy and getting enough sleep to big decisions such as going to class and staying away from drugs and alcohol, Tyler is leaping in a 17,652 person moon bounce.
And Alicia and I are on the outside.
Instead of watching from a few feet away, we are six hours from his moon bounce. We need to remember that Tyler is making his own choices at a more rapid pace than ever before. Along with this light speed increase in decision making, he will have seasons of age appropriate rebellion. Some nananapoopoo moments from inside his moon bounce.
That is where parenting Tyler is difficult for Alicia and me. Tyler is our oldest. As an oldest child myself, I can commiserate that oldest children are somewhat of experiments for their parents. Parents have a tendency to hover too long, worry and scrutinize their firstborn. Alicia and I are definite examples of that. We are also examples of learning from our over-analytical nature and tend to be more patient and realistic with our younger children. Still, with each new milestone of Tyler’s, we go back to our overthinking ways and worrying.
Is he safe? Who is he dating? Why didn’t he answer our texts? Is he responsible enough? These thoughts, and more, plague our minds. The realizations of my own shortcomings make me more forgiving to my parents. It also offers a hope that Tyler knows Alicia and I are doing our best.
I console both myself and Tyler by pointing out that a firstborn’s front line troop status also has some positive attributes too. Research suggests that firstborns have a tendency to be to driven, reliable and scholarly; the movers and shakers of the world. Being a firstborn is not all bad.
From inside his moon bounce, Tyler will grin. But it is no longer with the smile of a five year old discovering freedom with his first steps on the moon. The grin is of a young man making not just a small step for himself, but a giant leap into the moon bounce of life.