The Life & Death of a Balloon


“I want a balloon.”  Siena declared this as we were walking to the Farmer’s Market on Sunday.

Uh oh.  Not good.   I could already see where this was going, but it still didn’t take much for me to give in.  Siena entered the Farmers Market like a lion on the hunt.   She first caught scent of her prey when she sighted a couple of children carrying balloon animals.  And just 10 minutes later, her eyes locked on her prize – The Balloon Man.

“Mommy, there!  There he is.”

Crap.  Okay.  We head over.

“I bet you’d like a balloon” he asks.

Siena nods.

He offers her a choice.  “Would you like a butterfly, a flower or a bunny?”

“I want a sword.” she says.

Siena picks out a yellow balloon for her sword, her favorite color, and for the next 25 minutes, she is blissfully happy.  Until…

We were back home for no more than 5 minutes.  I was putting my bottles of raw milk from the Farmers Market in the freezer, when I heard a loud POP – then silence – then, “Mommy!”

I walked into the living room.  Siena was holding what was once a swanky yellow sword with a handle, but now looked like a rather obscenely large banana.

She looked at me and said, “I can still use it.”

“Yup.  It’s still a sword. “ I assured her and went back into the kitchen.

Thirty seconds later, I heard a low, hissing sound, followed by another “Mommy!”

Somehow her remaining sword had deflated and all that was left was a small yellow orb.  I waited and watched her.  How would she react?

And then came the uncontrollable sobbing.  It’s gone.  She realizes it now.  It won’t be coming back.

I go over and gently pick her, up placing her on my lap and wrapping my arms around her.  My heart is breaking as her heart breaks.  I look at her and just love her as she grieves this loss.

“I…” (sobbing)…”want…” (sobbing) …”to go back and get another one.”  She doesn’t want to be with this pain.

“I’m so sorry you’re balloon broke. I know you want another one. We’re not going back to get another one.”  My job is to be present with her in this pain and support her in seeing that if she allows herself to feel it, she can move through it.

Again. “I want to go back and get another one.”  More sobbing.

Gently I said, “We’re not going back.  I’m so sorry your balloon broke Lovey.”

The sobbing continued for another 5 minutes or so.  I held her tenderly.  I recognize that grief of losing something that brought you joy.  I recognize the desire to avoid feeling the pain.  And I know that the pain must be experienced and felt so that she can continue to live fully alive and open to life, without shutting down or putting up walls.

I knew the moment she wanted the balloon, that with the joy of having it, would inevitably come, the pain of its demise.  They came as a pair along with the balloon, the joy and the pain.   There was no way to give my daughter just the joy.  Just like me, she’s here to experience all that life brings and my job is to be present to her and support her in being present to herself through it all.

Much later in the day, when we were driving back from a trip to a nearby farm, she was holding on to her yellow balloon orb, all that was left of her sword.  “Look Mommy, it’s like a yellow apple!  I love it!”

“I’m so glad.”  I smiled.  My heart filled with the love of her, the preciousness of her and the gratitude that I get to experience her – all of her.