Balloon boy: A parent's perspective
As newsrooms jumped hungrily on the story of Falcon Heene yesterday, the 6-year-old boy feared to be adrift in a homemade hot air balloon, the mood among parents was decidedly more sombre.
If the child really took off in the balloon, surely he was either dead, or at least terrified.
But along with this collective parental fear for the boy, moms and dads were asking, "Who keeps an inflated flying saucer ready for take off in the backyard when there are three small, would-be astronauts in the house?"
It's clearly been established that this family doesn't exactly have average past-times. And as the story unfolds, it's less a tale of a boy who wandered into the yard unsupervised and took off. No, now it's more a tale of confusion about the child's whereabouts when something went wrong while dad was tinkering with the family hot air balloon.
But nevertheless, let's just, for a moment, contemplate boys and homemade flying-saucer-shaped air craft.
I've got two young sons at home. Cameron is the same age as Falcon, 6, and Alister is 2. I'm sure I'm not the only one who will attest to the fact that most small boys go through a number of stages including:
(later Superheros, Lego, Star Wars...)
But space is a big. I can remember my first child's total fixation with astronaut stuff. It started around three. A thumb would come out of his mouth and he would say something like, "There's no gravity in space." Cameron has a cardboard space ship in his room, a dress-up astronaut jumpsuit, various toy space crafts and countless giant books of facts on space (the kind I dread to see at the end of a long bedtime routine).
His little brother is pretty into space now, too. Staggering home from our respective newsrooms yesterday, not yet knowing the fate of Falcon and both feeling ill, his father and I watched Alister jump on an arm chair and shout, "Come on THIS space ship. Let's go!"
Given the chance, would he crawl into the cardboard basket of a hot air balloon that looks a little like the Millenium Falcon? You bet.
No parent would wish on another a five-hour period of wondering if there child was gone forever Balloon boy's father insists this isn't a publicity stunt. However, Internet rumours are they just got a TV deal for a show about scientific project families can do at home. But either way, I don't think those boys need the temptation of storm-chasing hot air balloon where others might have a sandbox.