Has your child ever let go of a balloon? Let me tell you the story of what happened with my little guy.
One day, my husband bought our youngest a Power Ranger mylar balloon. My little guy was over the moon since he loves balloons! He asked me to hold on to it to keep it safe. He was afraid that it would fly away. In the frenzy of getting all the bags out of the car, I unintentionally did the unimaginable. I LET IT GO!
The look on my little one’s face is something I will never forget. I felt beyond guilty. “I am so sorry, honey! Mommy was not paying attention and it slipped out of my hands. Please forgive me.” As I gave him a hug, he asked with a sad tone, “Mommy, where will my balloon go?”
CUE THE BOOK!
Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery by Jamie Lee Curtis and illustrator Laura Cornell is a must have for every child. I am a huge supporter of their work. This is the type of book that I personally love for children. It underlines a simple storyline with open interpretation. It contains a beautiful metaphor that not only touches the child, but parents as well.
When it comes to children’s literature, I look for books based on a dual metaphor; stories with a simple metaphor young children can easily understand and a more profound one parents can interpret.
The story begins with a vivid purple balloon being let go by a little boy. It immediately prompts children to engage with the question, “Where do balloons go when you let them go free? It can happen by accident.” The little boy then takes you on his journey of curiosity. From the televised breaking news scenario, to the possible different locations they float away to (I personally liked the Coffee and Helium House), it lights up the imagination of any reader. Do balloons write to each other? Get married? Do they miss parties or fairs? Do they tango, cha cha, or read? The illustrations on each page are eye-catching and instantaneously draw in the reader. I appreciated the different states mentioned to imagine how far balloons can travel. My little one’s favorite part was when they all meet up for the BIG BALLOON DANCE PARTY! My oldest enjoyed the part where it describes how some end up in space. “Do they race rockets? It would not be fun if balloons got to close to the sun? We know rubber melts! That wouldn’t be fun!”
The beautiful metaphor of loss is given at the end of the story.
Do the stars give a shove? And send it on high to the place up above? Does it float there forever remembering me? And know that I am happy that its floating free? Where do balloons go? Its a mystery, I know. So just hold on tight till you have to let go.”
For fairly little ones, the metaphor is not meant to be understood as a loss. Instead, just the grasp of the balloon going off to space or heaven. My oldest understood the metaphor and I felt he is at the age where we can openly talk about loss. He asked, “Mom, is the balloon Grandpa?” Loss is more common than parents think and children need more books that promote empathy on this subject.
My husband lost his father when he was only 9 years old. My oldest asks about Grandpa all the time. It was difficult for my husband to open up at first. We all heard the pain in his voice as he would tell us stories of his own childhood. He lost his best friend and there are no words to describe how painful that must feel. Since opening up more and more about it, I see how it is beginning to heal him. I see the incredible bond they are forming because of Grandpa’s memory.
Don’t be afraid to open up a line of communication and interpretation with your children through books. Venture out and look for meaningful books that convey life lessons, even if seems like a difficult subject to explain; children are equipped to comprehend so much more than we could imagine. Be the guide that shapes and builds their character.
I will leave you with the words of my little one.“I think balloons go all the way to heaven! God is keeping my balloon safe for me!”