I almost missed a birth in my kitchen the other day. It was the birthing of a dream; an idea that, once conceived in my youngest child’s mind, was demanding to be born. “I want to fly, Momma.” She stated matter-of-factly. “Can we buy a helium tank and some balloons?”
Being the proverbial wet blanket, I continued loading the dishwasher and listed all of the reasons why we could not bring her idea to fruition. It would never work. We could never afford enough helium. We would need special equipment. On and on I imparted practical wisdom which I assumed would settle the matter. I was mistaken. My youngest, like many a family ‘baby,’ is stubborn. Bone-deep stubborn. “Can’t we at least try?” Something in her tone took me aback. She was serious. She really wanted to try this.
We took the matter to her father and I was reminded anew why I married this man. He brilliantly offered a plausible alternative. “Why don’t we make a Barbie fly first?” That would never have occurred to me. Thus began one of the most fun ‘unschooling’ days I have had in a long time.
We bought a helium tank at Walmart for about $20. It came with its own package of balloons and miles of white curling ribbon. We then chose a pretty pink plastic beverage cup to be used as the doll’s conveyance. A regular Barbie proved to be too tall for the cup, so we opted to press a smaller doll into service. ‘Macy’ was chosen for her petite stature and because, well, she just seemed more game for the venture. Next, we punched holes around the top of the cup to tie the balloons to.
I weighed Macy in the cup. (3 oz.) I then weighed my daughter and showed the kids how to convert that figure to ounces. (1,328 oz.) We talked a bit about helium and why it makes balloons float. Nothing too scholarly, just casual hands-on learning.
As we began tying balloons to the cup, the atmosphere in our home was downright festive. We were all excited to see Macy fly. Four balloons, eight balloons, twelve balloons and…nothing. More and more balloons we filled and tied, filled and tied. Finally, the 20th balloon gave us the tiniest bit of lift. With the 21st balloon Macy was hovering about head height. We made it an even 24 and achieved what few miniature human replicas have ever done. Full flight. It was beautiful. My kids were buoyant, bubbling over with excitement. Their eyes were sparkling and we were all a bit in awe.
We briefly considered allowing Macy to go where no doll had gone before. To cut her loose to explore the great wide world unhindered. However, I was sure that she would come down on a highway and cause massive fatalities that would then emotionally scar my daughter for life, so her flight was limited to our high-ceiling living room area.
We figured out that it took about 8 balloons per ounce to make the flight possible. With that figure we showed my daughter that it would take 10,624 balloons to make her fly without any extra gear or basket. That showed her more effectively than words ever could that her dream to fly in this manner simply would not work. However, she was not distressed in the least as she floated Macy all through the house for the remainder of the afternoon. In fact, my girls spent a good portion of the day flying various small toys around and figuring out if they could get our two rats, Eowyn and Xena, airborne. (We couldn’t.)
All in all, we had a splendid day that I almost missed out on. I tend to get so busy doing ‘Mom’ stuff that I all too readily blow off my children’s fancies. What I realized this day is that it is far more rewarding to indulge their crazy ideas sometimes than to keep up on the laundry and house cleaning. I didn’t get a thing done that day, but I have something far better. Memories of an amazing day of playing and learning with the people I love most.