Benny and the Jerk Balloon

My three-year-old may be the most emotionally healthy person in the world.

I came across this old photo, and remembered the day. We were playing in a school gym after a baptism, and she found this half-dead balloon lying under some bleachers. Oh my gosh, she had so much fun with it.

benny jerk balloon 2

So, when it was time to go, I ignored the warning alarms in my head and said she could take it with her.

Of course, as soon as we stepped outside, a gust of wind came and swiped her precious balloon right out of her hands. At first I thought it would come back down, and we chased it across the parking lot, but it went up, then down again, then up just out of reach, and then up and up, over the trees, way over the church roof, and then it was gone.

Worst.

I remember being three, and I remember the desolation of the lost balloon. One minute, the world is buoyant and glad, and then suddenly it’s all grief and loss and wild injustice.

I’m getting old. I’m getting tired of the way the world is, where a little girl can’t even have an orange balloon to make her happy. I didn’t even dare look at her, expecting the sobs to come pouring out. I thought, “I can’t stand it. I’ll buy her another balloon. I’ll buy everybody a balloon! I’ll buy all the balloons in the world!”

She just stared after it for a minute, and then she said, “Jerk balloon.” And that was it. She was fine.

I want to be Benny when I grow up.

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  • ARM

    You have seen “Le Ballon Rouge,” right? After that experience, you really should. It’s a French short film (about 30 minutes) about a kid who finds and then loses a magical balloon. It was our best family movie night yet. Being a French film, there’s so little talk that even the littlest kid can watch it with no real need to read the handful of subtitles.

  • Sheila C.

    The first time my first child ever had a balloon, it was helium, and he immediately let go of it and it floated away. He cried SO HARD. We offered more balloons, and he acted like we had offered to replace his mother with some other woman. He wanted THAT balloon. And it was lost forever.

    My mom suggested that we let him watch The Red Balloon, but didn’t warn me about the ending. Again, rivers of tears. I wish he could take a page out of Benny’s book sometime.

  • anna lisa

    I say “I’ll buy you another one!” ALL the time. Usually they forget, or maybe they just know I won’t do it, by experience, but it cools their wrath in the moment enough of the time to keep making me say it . I’m going to have to add that to my list of things that perfect me would never have done when I was fresh and new at virtuous motherhood.

    The most egregious form of bribery happened in the beginning of the summer, but it was my Mom, not me. Kid #8 and Granddaughter #25 was screaming at me from her porcelain perch to come wipe her butt, but I’d had it. I was trying to take a nap. I would yell “do it yourself!” or “shame on you, you’re almost a first grader!” My Mom could hear the battle and came over. Neither one of us was willing to back down. Mum offered to wipe her, but Charlotte said “NO! MOMMY!” This went back and forth several times, and then things got really quiet. The next day Charlotte went off on a little errand with grandmum. She returned with a giant, glittering, pink, unicorn Barbie horse. When my husband came home, Charlotte was playing contentedly with her prize and all of the accessories that came with it on the living room floor.
    “See that?” I asked him “That’s what Mum had to pay Charlotte for the privilege of wiping her butt–I’m afraid she’s peaked at six. It’s all downhill in life after that.”

    • Eileen

      Hah! I could see me someday bribing a grandchild for the privilege of butt wiping if I thought it would give one of my adult children some sleep.

      “I’ll buy you another one!” is the downside to living off amazon.com. Little tyrants will stand over my shoulder until a transaction is complete. Best case scenario they forget about it after I’ve ordered it and I can save it for some time when they’re feeling the whole world’s against them or possibly even Christmas. The odds of my kids forgetting were upped when amazon was offering us the prime video credit because the kids always wanted to take the slow boat shipping so they could then watch a free show. But now amazon has moved on to giving some credit for prime pantry and we don’t really use that nor do they care about it.

      • anna lisa

        “I could see me someday bribing a grandchild for the privilege of butt wiping if I thought it would give one of my adult children some sleep.”

        Well–that makes you nice.

        My Mom lectured me about leaving “the poor little thing stranded”, but I don’t buy the “poor little thing” story for a second because she’s been doing just fine on her own in that dept. for a couple of years . It was pure manipulation on her part. I had given her a bunch of forewarning that she wasn’t to disturb me. She wanted to see if she could win at getting me to jump through a hoop. It turned out better than she expected, wouldn’t you say?

        I try to avoid Amazon. –So dangerous to press a couple of buttons and voila! I have a phobia of having to return something defective too (like it would end up complicated).

        My friend’s four year old got on her Mom’s laptop, and ordered a whole load of Dora the Explorer products on Amazon. Luckily her Mom saw the notifications of the purchases in her email. Little stinker!

        Some of my kids are airheads like me and forget everything, some of the others have a steel-trap spreadsheet that I could just swear they’re adding interest and service charges to. They bargain and wager , wearing me down for things. If that means an X-box war game, I end up walking past the room and cringing. They’re barking commands at each other, vibrating with Adrenalin, and I’m scratching my head wondering how it happened.

        I’m tired and outnumbered!

        Luckily Charlotte still thinks the 99 cent store is amaaaaaazing. Mum’s questionable judgement set her back 25 bucks. Even she must have felt like a sucker, but she wouldn’t admit it. I’d say that was pretty expensive poop.

  • Viterbo Fangirl

    Mad props to the awesome Benny!

  • wineinthewater

    As the parent of a child who has totally lost it when a balloon blew away, this killed me. We often struggle with proportional response to events.

    The funny thing with my taught is that the next time we went to the store from where she got the balloon and was offered another one, she didn’t want it. She was afraid of losing it and feeling bad again. We had to have a “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all….” conversation.

  • Ezbs

    Go Benny.