Pump Yourself Up

Yes, we know it’s a giant petri dish, Pump It Up. They have one in almost every city. Maybe it goes by a different name in yours. There are HUGE, inflatable slides and obstacle courses. It’s fun, but the pain that comes with it is as bad as paint ball. The bruises still create mounds and welts, black, red and blue to match the décor.

There is music in the background, but the real symphony is the bumping, falling and crying. The crying and screaming breaks for intermission, but it isn’t for more than a few seconds. There is always a new casualty and a parent running to the rescue.

Yet, our kids love it. It’s the coolest place for kids to have a birthday party, when they want to Pump It Up. The minute I step through the doors of this place, Elvis Costello blares in my mind to overpower the outdated pop music playing overhead. It’s the only way I can “pump myself up” enough to make it through.

If you are careful, the drama will be minimal and you’ll exit with your mind still intact. Here are a few tips to help you through your two-hour, jumping journey:

Tip #1: Your child must be well-rested before you go. If they’re not, then every little scream or fall might spark sensory overload. This place is like Vegas for kids. Everything is so vibrant and colorful. The fluorescent lights are blinding at times. After a while, it just gets to be overkill. That’s usually about day three of casino hopping for me. Our kids are on the fast train, though. If they’re tired, it can be as early as three minutes. And, once they have a meltdown, it’s never really cured. You’ll be carrying and comforting them at constant intervals and cursing yourself for letting them stay up that extra hour the night before.

Tip #2: Stock up on Bengay, Icy Cold, Advil or whatever you use to nurse your pain. If you’re old like me and already have war wounds from a previous mishap, then rest assured the pain will return. My hip tendonitis is suffering a relapse, as I speak.

Our kids are moody and my daughter can be unpredictably clingy. If this side of her shows up, her arms will be wrapped around my leg and won’t let go even when I have to pee (a very tricky scenario). This also means, she will not enter any of the contraptions, without me. I have to jump in the giant, bounce house, climb the steep, slide steps and push her through the obstacle course. It’s exhausting and the post-Pump-It-Up pain usually lasts at least a week.

Tip #3: If you do have an injury, fake a relapse BEFORE the party, so your spouse will have to go. Save yourself the week of pain by just pretending for an hour. Yes, it’s sneaky, but it’s best time to play hooky, by far.

Tip #4: Pay close attention to how big the kids are in the bounce house, before you let your little one in. Make sure the number of them is also monitored. The bounce house is the equivalent of a punk rock mosh pit. Once your kid gets caught in the jumping circle, it’s hard to get them out.

My daughter once got smacked in the nose and blood was pouring out. It took a minute or two, just for my husband to get to her. (How is it that kids fall or get a tiny cut and blood oozes out like someone shot them with an uzi? It always looks far worse than it really is, but it’s still best to avoid it.)

I also watched some kid step on my friend’s kid’s head and not even flinch. He was down and out and balling, but other kids just kept walking around him. Kids don’t care what happens to other kids, when they’re having fun.

Tip #5: Bring Curious George, Princess, Dora the Explorer (whatever character your kid is into at that moment) Band-Aids and plenty. Bring a snack to soothe them. When they fall, you’ll need a distraction.

Tip #6: Give your kid a bath when they get home and change their clothes. If you don’t, it’s almost guaranteed they will be sick the next morning. With 20+ kids in one place and indoors, there will be snot slipping and sliding everywhere. Picture your kid rolling around in snot and possibly even urine (at this age kids still have accidents). The sanitizer they hand out is great, but it’s just not enough. I know you’re beat from your two-hour jumping journey, but you’ll be thankful you did.

Tip #7: Make sure you have some wine, beer or whatever your drink of choice on hand. You won’t have the energy to stop at the store after the party is over and you may need an adult party after your kid hits the sheets. Luckily, Pump It Up will definitely poop your little one out.

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