Little Chick loves bouncing at the moment, usually on our bed. It is clearly joyful – his shrieks of delight attest to that – but it is also regulating. Adoptive parents shared the trampoline tip with us before we were even approved, and Little Chick has a small trampette in the garden. But he has outgrown that, and a full-size trampoline may follow.
Before we forked out for an expensive gift, we needed to lay the groundwork, physically and emotionally. Our garden is incredibly steep and doesn’t lend itself to jumping apparatus that requires flat ground. The designated area would require serious excavation before a large trampoline could be used safely. More importantly, we knew Little Chick enjoyed bouncing on our bed, but it wasn’t clear whether the thrill was the activity itself or the elicit nature of it, doing something he shouldn’t, in the one room of the house that is explicitly not his. We reasoned a trip to a trampolining centre would clarify this. So, I am sat in the viewing gallery as I write this, while Little Chick and The Other Mrs Reed Warbler are below.
It’s fair to say it has been a slow start. The necessary safety briefing caused some tension for most of the waiting children and I fully expected Little Chick to come bombing out of the tunnel, raring to go. But he was far more cautious, considered. This surprised me until I realised it wasn’t the bouncing that worried him: it was everyone and everything else.
Although the centre is kitted out in the two colours most associated with its branding, it is a dazzling sea of colour, not least because of the clothes the children are wearing. Seasoned pros have realised that a bright colour for easy ID is a smart move; some have taken this further by coordinating adult and children’s colours. Twinning in fluorescent outfits is something I will consider for next time (if today suggests that ‘next time’ isn’t a ridiculous idea). The noise is deafening. Over the years I have learned to tune out children’s playful screaming and turn it into unremarkable white noise. Little Chick hasn’t learned this trick yet and I can see he is struggling. Classic Disney tunes are blaring out across the arena. Honestly, I’m loving it, but this is a nostalgic throwback for me. It is a waking nightmare for the boy.
Sensory overload aside, he is coping brilliantly. Yes, he stands out. Yes, he is becoming dysregulated. But he and The Other Mrs Reed Warbler are doing a brilliant job of staying calm and bouncing it out. He becomes braver, trying apparatus much higher and trickier. He gives everything a go. But his favourite remains the inflated pillow that you run, jump, and launch yourself onto. The only problem is, there’s a queue. Little Chick was one of the first to try this when it belatedly opened and he was able to have a full ten minutes of sharing it with just one other family, a family who were kind and patient and didn’t mind a sturdy three year old having more turns than his equal half and hurling himself towards them. But as the session went on the attraction grew more popular and the queue snaked around the neighbouring trampolines. Waiting is not Little Chick’s forte. He is three, so fair enough, but he really struggles with waiting. I could see The Other Mrs Reed Warbler explaining the need to wait his turn and him protesting. After some time, he was amazing. He fidgeted and wobbled, waiting his turn, only cutting in a few times, but he was far better than I imagined he could be. He really wanted this and was trying so hard. Only one incident marred the experience. Two inept dads cut in line with their children then stood blocking the launchpad, while their own children flailed on the inflatable. Little Chick saw red and just ran and hurled himself over the edge. He missed one of the children by millimetres; it would have been a nasty collision that almost certainly ended with tears and most likely stitches or x-rays. The father of the child told off Little Chick; the attendant told off Little Chick; the Other Mrs Reed Warbler acted with dignity while rescuing Little Chick and used therapeutic parenting rather than reprimands.
When the session was finished Little Chick was clearly overstimulated, but the act of bouncing had prevented that from tipping over. The environment wasn’t quite right for him. This was a session exclusively for under-fives, but we made a mental note to enquire about the monthly slots dedicated to children with autism, sensory processing issues, and similar conditions. Little Chick told us that he loved it and wanted to come again. We said we would try, not clear whether the fallout in the coming hours and days would be worth it.
There was no obvious fallout, or at least no more than we usually experience from a busy, exciting weekend. There have been many requests for bouncing. We will try again, in a few weeks. When its quieter. Once the Other Mrs Reed Warbler has recovered. A long-term knee injury excuses me from bouncing duty, so I will have to retake my place in the viewing gallery. I will observe, write, and drink surprisingly well priced coffee and cake. I look forward to it.
Edit (May 2019): We did return to ‘bouncing’, again for an under-fives session. Similarly, it was overwhelming and overstimulating, though Little Chick coped brilliantly. The limited availability of the quieter sessions – just one per month with restricted numbers – means we haven’t been able to access this option. We’re not sure that it is fair to take him to the regular sessions; it feels like we are setting him up for a fall. But it has convinced us that a trampoline is a great idea for a birthday present.