Last week, my son’s friends asked if he was allowed to “go to the trampoline” with them. At first we suspected that this might be a euphemism for something because, although these kids had been talking for days about going to the trampoline, we had neither seen nor heard of it until quite recently, and you’d think that a giant trampoline would be big, constant news in a neighborhood filled with kids who sometimes wander around like a band of feral cats.
So we said no; to be more specific, my husband said no first, and then in the time-honored tradition of sneaky children everywhere, the kids found me and asked. Shockingly enough, I also said no. Our rationale was that, because we didn’t know precisely where said trampoline was and we didn’t know the person who owns it, our five-year-old was not going to go visit it unless one of us could accompany him. My son’s friends were unimpressed with our reasoning and proceeded to extoll its virtues:
“But it’s awesome. And we’ll be there.”
“It’s just up the street,” [waving hands vaguely off to the left] “and there’s a lady who owns it.”
“There’s like five adults up there, and a bunch of dogs and some cats, and the lady, and her trampoline.”
As I tend to do when anything weird (i.e., practically anything) happens on my street, I texted several of my neighbors about this, trying to pool our knowledge to figure out what the deal really was. One of them suggested that it sounded like the setup for an episode of “To Catch a Predator,” but another actually knew who the trampoline belongs to: a woman at the very top of our street who is in a wheelchair, and yet has an enormous trampoline dug into the ground in her backyard. In addition, she frequently hosts people from her church, which explains (er, sort of) the multiple adults hanging out around the trampoline. And she does indeed have multiple pets; I’ve seen her walking the dogs often during the nice weather, though I can’t vouch for the cats.
So, now that the mystery is solved, does that mean my son will be visiting said trampoline? Nope, and I am starting to see it as a metaphor for the situations that will no doubt arise with increasing frequency as he gets older and his friends begin to suggest more and more interesting activities. It was very polite of them to ask our permission, I’ll give them that, but there is no way my kid is going to play at a house where we know no one and there are a bunch of unknown adults present, unless I’m invited too. And then, the catch is, I have to actually want to go. I take him to events all the time that I’m not terribly excited about because he is so excited about them, which is fine and part of being a parent. But he doesn’t seem to care much one way or the other about the trampoline. To be honest, I think I am more intrigued by it than he is, but then, I’m imagining heading up there with my friends and a glass of wine to check it out, not showing up with five or six kids to watch them bounce around and try to avoid landing on an animal or breaking a limb. All I can picture is the episode of “The Simpsons” where Bart and Lisa have a trampoline and their backyard turns into that hospital scene out of “Gone with the Wind.” That sort of thing is really only entertaining if it happens to yellow cartoon children. Real children need the ER and stuff, and I doubt the hospital will let me bring in my wine, even if I put it in my special sippy cup.
So, the trampoline is first on my list of places my kids won’t be going without me just yet. Where else can’t they go without me? The circus, the state fair, the playground, on the bus, to the pool, across the street. They are five and two, after all. There is plenty of time for independence, and it will be awesome, but for now, they have to stay where I can see them and keep them from bouncing away.