A few days ago, tired, fractious Harry and I were trudging our way through the supermarket checkout in the early evening. To my delight, the store was having a promotion and helium balloons festooned the checkout; I quickly knotted one to the trolley handle to stave off melt-down. In undisputed possession, Harry temporarily transformed into a very happy bunny indeed. Outside, he batted at it, chortling in pleasure, whilst I loaded the car boot with groceries.


I glance up at my balloon boy, and decant another bag into the car.

*Insistently* ‘UH-OH!’

I look at him, and turn to follow his perturbed gaze, a couple of hundred yards across the car park. Sure enough, some poor child’s balloon has come loose from its moorings, and is rapidly gaining height.

Some day, lovey, I thought, the wind is going to blow your balloon away. Or your candy floss. Now that’s a sad sight when you’re three: a fuzzy pink stick, where a nano-second beforehand there was a toothsome pink cloud of enamel-dissolving sugar.

So, for no better reason than a vague attempt at installing some concept of empathy as the occasion had arisen, as well as a smidge of preparatory emotional cushioning against future mishaps, I decided to give a Life Really Sucks lecture.

‘Oh, no! Harry! Another little boy has lost his bouncy balloon!’

Solemn nod.

‘Oh, Harry, that’s quite (Makaton-sign for) *SAD* sad.’

Another nod. *SAD*

‘Maybe he will have more *MORE* balloons tomorrow and he will be happy *HAPPY* again.’

Uncertain look. Little head-shake.

‘I think that little boy is probably a bit sad *SAD* at the moment though, isn’t he? He can see it flying away, look!’

Enthusiastic nod. *SAD*

‘Well, darling, it IS sad when you lose your balloon, but I don’t think he’ll be sad for very long, though, will he?’

Nod. Taps own chest.

‘Oh, Harry, are you sad *SAD* for that little boy? That poor little boy who has lost his balloon?

Emphatic, full-on nod. Chest tap. Puppy-eyes.

My focus broadens to take in the trolley handle.

The empty trolley handle.

I’ve been extolling the misery of watching your balloon fly away to a tiny little boy who is watching his balloon fly away. 


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