My niece turned three this weekend. What a curious age. She is half between a baby and a normal person. She has every man in her life wrapped around her little finger and she knows it. But it doesn’t matter. We all shuffle in front of her waiting for her thumb up or thumb down that dictates the amount of three-year-old-love we get for the day.
There is only so much power we have against her little curls, ice cream covered face and toothy grin that shows baby teeth that might still be a little big for her tiny mouth. But the voice comes out in an unmistakable order.
“The bounce house! Bounce!” she says. She takes off in this weird wobbling run towards the bounce house that can only be achieved by someone still growing into her legs.
“Yes ma’am.” I shuffle off only too happy to comply. After all, bounce houses can still be fun at 28. Right?
I chase after her like someone still growing into his adult mentality. It doesn’t matter. I kick off my shoes. As Dora the Explorer watches over us, we slide into the bounce house. My niece is too happy. She is jumping in little puffs of six inch leaps and laughing and running in hopping circles. I am jumping away from her at a distance, pretty sure that the balance of power would be too strongly in my favor.
Then it happens. I can’t help myself. I just can’t.
I time her leap and as she lands, I jump and smash downward.
In slow motion, my leap catapults the three year old girl into the air about three feet. A leg goes left, a leg goes right, an arm goes up an arm goes down, and up and up she goes.
I think, “Why, why did you do that?” Her back is parallel to the bounce house now and her eyes are wide and her smile becomes a perfect ‘O’.
She lands. Then she lands again. And again. Then she lays there. Legs, arms, all over the place. Surely, I have broken her.
Then she laughs. She gets up and runs around the bounce house, leaps into the air and laughs again. With a sigh of relief, I exit, and retire from bounce houses with three year olds. For now. And my niece, well she lives to see birthday number four.