Is there anything kids love more than a trampoline? Yes, as it turns out, there are plenty things which kids love more than trampolines. And it’s not just the big ticket entertainment offerings like games consoles and Netflix.
Random bits of junk are a greater attraction than an expensive piece of backyard entertainment like a trampoline; old car tyres, a wheelbarrow, a stack of rotting pallets behind the shed, all these things entertain them more than a trampoline.
I learned this the hard way, by buying and then binning a trampoline, all within a six-month period. Our trampoline had a short life — bought last autumn after The Great Trampoline Panic of Summer 2020, we assembled it shortly before Christmas thinking that everyone would be working off the turkey by leaping up and down in subzero temperatures. They did play on it a bit, but not much, and after a while we realised that we were now ordering them to go play on it and all they did was climb in and then stare out at us through the netting like recently captured POWs, their haunted gazes bobbing up and down.
Fortunately for them they were liberated from their bouncy internment camp by a few spring storms which picked up and repeatedly smashed the trampoline off the back wall of the garden. Really, we should have known this would happen as the last trampoline did the same, upping and taking off over the hills like the chief at the end of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
So it got dismantled and we brought it to the dump. RIP Our Trampoline, 2020-2021. But the reason our trampoline only took off literally and not figuratively was that it wasn’t much fun without other kids.
Our lot are lucky to have each other, but they have had each other all of the time for the last 12 months and really they need some other people. You can see it when kids have friends over, the excitement and the way their minds and imaginations get fired up. Everything is more fun when we’re around other people; work is better, trampolining is better, exercise is better, pints are better, school is better.
Our children were delighted to be going back into the classroom — even our ever-tortured Leaving Cert student was looking forward to it, something which I normally would have said was a portent of the endtimes. The small two were delighted to just be leaving the house, and that joy carried through to their mother, who bore the brunt of all the homeschooling.
We can’t be the only parents who spent the last few months wondering if we should call the poisons hotline as we had developed a strong allergic reaction to our own kids. Family life isn’t meant to be this concentrated, you have to dilute to appreciate it — playdates, day trips, outings, holidays, all those things are sadly lacking from the last few months.
But in the schools returning to something close to normal, came hope — that someday we would move beyond this, that people could be around people again. I wasn’t there for the first drop-off but I assume it was something similar to the opening scenes of La La Land, a mix of static traffic and unbridled joy; children got to see their friends, teachers got back in the classroom, parents got to pause and draw breath.
The weather is improving, the days are getting longer and while the numbers are still high, and there is still a very real fear bubbling away in the background, the schools reopening feels like a massive step forward, for our kids, for ourselves, and most of all, for the cobwebbed and rusting trampolines of Ireland.