There’s the belief that once you reach a certain age that you no longer enjoy certain things. Things like trampolines and water slides are traditionally for kids. Parents are forced to stand to the side and watch the kids have a hell of a time.
Part of the reason for this involves physical limitations. Most of these things are built for kids, and when you add 180 pounds of uncoordinated father, things can end badly. Jumping on the bed ends with a trip to Ikea, and pillow fights usually end with a concussion.
The biggest reason why we don’t get to partake, however, is social convention. We are terrified of looking foolish or, heavens forbid, unprofessional in front of other adults. We imagine that they’re standing on the sidelines thinking things like, “isn’t it about time that he grew up?” and “there’s no way that my kid is spending anytime at their house.” Therefore, we stand beside them and casually talk about work and our kids. We pretend that we are perfectly happy letting the kids have a good time because we have all grown out of such things. Inside, however, we just want to go hit each other with the toy lightsabers. Of course, since none of us would outwardly admit it, we just stand there and miserably pretend that we’re happy.
Yesterday, I was put to the test when my daughter attended a birthday party for one of her classmates. It was held at a building that was filled with all different types of bounce houses. First of all, the company set everything up really well. Second, these aren’t the bounce houses that you see in backyards or petting zoos. These were some serious, heavy-duty palaces of fun. They had two of the typical (although much larger) bounce house where you just go inside and jump around. One was filled with jousting equipment while the other was filled with overized boxing gloves.They had two separate obstacle courses set up where you could start on different sides and race. They had two of the huge slides, and they had a mountain that you could try to climb (and fail). It was really awesome, and my little girl had a terrific time.
Of course, I was standing over to the side talking to a couple of the other fathers and having an internal/external struggle. “Really, you were born in Chicago?” Those kids are having so much fun. “Yeah, I’ve been in the Navy for about 14 years now.” I should race my daughter through the obstacle course. “Yeah, she really is a great teacher.” I bet I could get to the top of that mountain.
This somewhat bi-polar debate took place for about 15 minutes. I had finally resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to act like a grown up, so I settled into a conversation about the housing market. Just then, one of the young men that worked at the place came by and said, “You know, if any of the adults wanted to participate, they are……”
I’m not sure how he finished the sentence because I had already kicked my shoes into the corner and thrown myself down a huge inflated slide.
Over the next 45 minutes or so, I had a great time. My daughter and I raced through the obstacle course a couple times. When I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to be able to make it to the top of the mountain, I decided to see if I could throw her to the top (the answer is no). Since I volunteer at the school, and all the kids know me, as soon as I climbed inside one of the huge bounce houses, I was mobbed by a pee-wee militia armed with boxing gloves twice their size. I had an awesome time, and I’m really glad that I decided to take the leap. While only one other parent decided to play, I don’t think there were any negative thoughts from the rest. To be honest, I really wouldn’t have cared either way. I was having a ton of fun with my daughter and a bunch of her friends.
Of course, at one point, I did have to perform another “I’m a grown man” act. After running through the obstacle course as fast as I could chasing kids three times in quick succession, I had to lean against the wall and pretend like I wasn’t winded. I’m one of the command fitness leaders where I work, but by the end, I had gotten a hell of a workout. If they had one of these places closer to base, I would probably try to set up a group exercise session. It would be a terrific way to have a great time, bond as a team, and get a really good workout.
Does my knee hurt a little more than normal today? You better believe it. Did I accidentally crush a kid that I don’t really know? Sure, but he was hitting me with a jousting stick, so he had it coming. With that being said, would I have changed the way that I acted yesterday? Absolutely. I wouldn’t have messed around for 15 minutes before joining in on the fun. I would have been the first one with my shoes off.