We had to go to birthday party yesterday morning. I used to think that 10:30 Sunday morning parties were for losers. Until I had children. Or maybe I’m a loser. Anyway, the girls’ buddy, Fips, had her 1st birthday today and we obediently toddled off to Gymboree for a morning of “jungle safari” and cake. On one hand, the whole idea sounded fabulous and on the other hand, well, painful. All of us up, fed and dressed and out the door by 9:30 on a Sunday, along with wrapped present (Lego Duplo!), snacks and extra diapers? Ugh. But actually, something more horrifying was on my mind. I didn’t sleep last night, tossing and turning. What could possibly be so scary about a child’s birthday party? Oh, yeah, you got it. Balloons.

I feel like I need to take out a national billboard campaign. What is it with the obsession with latex and helium? I spent Saturday night literally planning what I would say if we got there and found balloons all around. I thought of going silent, because no one wants unsolicited advice. Then again, what if a child died in front of me and I’d said nothing? I decided to take a “wait and see” middle line approach.

**To those of you just joining: infants and toddlers who bite a latex balloon, popping it and then inhaling the pieces, which are not retrievable except at bronchoscopy or autopsy, are at risk. Mylar is fine. Otherwise, wait until your kids are old enough to understand threats of “no TV if you don’t get your mouth off that balloon.”**

Of course, as soon as we got there, I saw them. Floating Spheres of Death all around. Shoot me.

It wasn’t an issue until after the “safari” activities. (Really? That’s an elephant? I don’t see it. I see a slide and a tunnel. But okay.) We retired to the entryway for cake. And then the toddlers discovered the balloons. I tried chatting with the other parents and casually putting myself between their children and certain death but then I sort of lost it. As Marcus sweetly licked all around his helium-filled choking hazard, I found my voice.

“I’m so sorry, please forgive me. Call me neurotic or crazy or whatever. But for my own peace of mind could we please, um, remove the balloons? Because, ha ha, I’m such a party pooper, but, um, they are one of the top ten fatal choking hazards for small children. Ha ha. Uh. Please?”

One mother looked at me and laughed. “Oh he’s just a balloon lover.” But the other parents paid attention. “Does this have something to do with your work?” asked one very pleasant woman.

“Well, yes, actually, I am a doctor. A pediatric ER doctor.”

And the balloons were gone. Whoosh. Like magic.