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To the Mom at the Trampoline Park Who Saw Me Bounce With My Child

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I see you. Enjoying a life I thought I would have a long time ago. You’re sitting at the edge of the trampoline park reading a book. You look totally engrossed in it, glancing up occasionally and topping up the tea (maybe coffee) from your flask. Your children have their own water bottles at your feet. I’ve called them Jack and Katie (the children, not the water bottles). Katie pops back from time to time for a slurp of water from her daisy bottle, but I never see Jack. I guess he is off enjoying himself.

I am enjoying myself, too, but in a different way to you.

You see, I’ve brought my two children to the trampoline park just like you have…but I get to bounce. I wear very sexy lime-green socks with rubber grips that make me feel like a cross between Kermit the frog and Spiderman. I bounce with my 12-year-old son, Harry, because he needs me for safety reasons. He has autism and is nonverbal, so he can’t call me if he needs me or let anyone else know who he is or where I am if he was to lose sight of me. So I stay at his side the entire time. He doesn’t tell me he’s having a great time like Katie tells you when she dashes back momentarily, but I can tell. You read your book, I read my boy. His smile and the “happy snuffle” he does when he’s excited tell me he’s happy. He would bounce forever if he could.

I get tired; my legs ache from the incredible workout that bouncing gives them and my bladder control isn’t what it once was. More than once I find myself wishing for a “Tena Lady!” My head aches because I need a drink but I can’t leave the arena because Harry is loving the bouncing so much and I can’t FIND his brother, Oliver, to let him know we have nipped off. If I leave without telling him, his anxiety levels would probably be through the roof and feel distraught. So, I bounce.

Sometimes I sit down and Harry sits next to me, snuggled in. I love that. I like to stroke his hair and kiss his head. I can feel him smiling.

You look up then and see us. You smile at me and it’s not a pity smile or patronizing at all, like some people send our way. Just a smile from one mother to another.

Then Harry and I are bouncing again. Legs and bladder to the test once more.

Katie comes over to you and notices us. She pulls that familiar face of curiosity and grimacing that we are so used to and you distract her quickly. She asks you to watch her for a minute — which you do — and then she’s off bouncing around and you’re back to your book.

We have a small group of boys come over to point and stare at Harry, so I bounce us over to them and introduce my boy. We chat for a few minutes and as soon as the boys realize Harry is just the same in many ways as they are; they leave us in peace. I see an adult with them stand up and watch what is going on. She sits down once she sees me smiling and carries on the conversation with her friend.

Meanwhile, Oliver is testing his skill on a new gladiator style activity where he has to jump over and duck under rotating padded arms. It looks like great fun and he shouts for me to watch. I shuffle to the edge of the trampoline we are on (I chose the one closest to the activity on purpose, as I predicted Oliver would love it) and watch him in between whizzing my head around to keep an eye on Harry. People say God choses “special parents” for “special children” but if that was true, you would think the least he could do would be to equip us with 360-degree rotating heads like an owl. That would help me a lot.

Oliver loves the activity and does well. He bounces with Harry at times and gives me five minutes to watch them. He’s an incredible brother, but he wants to be off doing flips and bouncing off the walls (literally) and so it’s not too long before he calls me back, kisses Harry and leaves us again. Bouncing.

I show Harry how to pull his knees up as he bounces and I sing with him to the resident DJ tunes played overhead which makes him laugh. My boy loves a good dance, so we do some party dance moves and I catch myself wondering if I have sweat stains under my arms and tell myself not to wear grey again.

You’re still reading your book.

The announcement comes that its time for us all to leave the arena. Our time slot is up and Katie makes her way to you. As me and the boys are getting off the trampoline, you give me such a lovely smile that I want to hug you. You have given me a glimpse into a world I had imagined I’d have. Sometimes it makes me sad. Today, I’m OK with it. Sure, I’m out of breath and I possibly have a couple of unattractive sweat-stains, but my boys have loved the hour and I was an active part in it. Don’t get me wrong, If I could have my head in a book and enjoy a hot drink in peace for an hour I would be delighted, but that would be a different life for me, and although I would not have chosen this one at the start, I wouldn’t change it now. Plus, I don’t know what you deal with outside of this hour. Maybe you need that down time as much as I do. I smile back as you close your book and reassemble the flask.

As I put Harrys shoes on and ask him if the day was good or bad, he smiles at me in a way that radiates absolute delight and says “goooood” before kissing me, at which point my heart bursts.

You might have the life I will never know. You might enjoy peace, relaxation and average blood pressure, but I have the joy of a life few are ever blessed enough to know, calves of a bison and a lucrative sponsorship deal with “Tena Lady” (OK that bits not true but the calves are rock hard!)

Have a lovely life.

Follow this journey at Our Altered Life.

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Originally published: January 9, 2018
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