Parents: Lung capacity is key when choosing an inflatable toy

(Because I am still off the grid and out of air from inflating water toys over the weekend, I am offering this re-post from the archives as a warning to parents as they kick off the summer inflatable-toy-buying season. In the meantime, Skippy the Rabid Blindfolded Squirrel and I hope to see all of you tomorrow for the next edition of The Box! Assuming, of course, that Skippy gets his blindfold off…)

Inflated whale We live less than 15 minutes from our favorite lake. The problem is, it also happens to be everyone else’s favorite lake, which means in order to get a spot within the vicinity of actual water, you have to be there when the gates open at noon and participate in something similar to the Oklahoma Land Rush. It’s not uncommon to see small children strapped to inflatable toys and tossed ahead of the crowd in order to claim prime territory.

As a parent, it’s not a gamble I’m willing to take with my child. Especially since, as a general rule, it only counts if your child is in an upright position once they skid to a stop.

The good news is that once the initial pandemonium is over, things generally settle into a state of peaceful co-existence as, one by one, parents begin passing out while blowing up inflatable toys. Sadly, the evolutionary process has not been able to keep up with the growing demand for larger and larger inflatable animals. Unless you are a pearl diver by trade, chances are your lung capacity is nowhere near what it needs to be in order to fully inflate your child’s favorite water toy.

This has created a generation of children who are routinely disappointed by their parents during the formative “spring vacation” years, when parents are trying to build a foundation of trust and respect — something that’s hard to do when your child sees you pass out facedown between the tail fins of a plastic humpback whale.

I speak from experience. My son’s favorite water toy is an inflatable “Shamu” that, when fully inflated, can be seen from space. Though I consider myself relatively fit (and by that I mean relative to other people standing in line with me at Burgerville), I have yet, in a single sitting, been able to inflate my son’s whale beyond the point it stops resembling a decomposing whale carcass. That’s about the time dizziness and suspected cerebral hemorrhage forces me to breath pure oxygen — which, fortunately, is now available to parents in single-use canisters at the snack bar.

Sure, I’ve tried inflating the whale before driving to the lake.


I quickly discovered there wasn’t enough room in our mini van to fit a fully inflated whale and four children. This left me with three options:

1) Bring the whale and leave the kids.
2) Stay home and let the kids drive the whale to the lake themselves.
3) Strap the kids to the top of the van and hope for the best.

I went with our third option, but strapped the whale on top instead of the children when I realized an important point:

Aerodynamically speaking, the whale would give me better gas mileage.

I’m no Boy Scout, but I know how to tie a knot. I stand by that to this day. Just as I did in court, when I argued that it was a single, unexpected 120 mph wind gust — and not defective knot tying — that caused a nine-foot inflatable whale to go tumbling into oncoming traffic. Thankfully, no one was injured, although a family of six on its way back from the local aquarium is still in counseling. Because of that experience, and a court order, we save the “Shamu” inflation process for the lake.

Naturally, the same goes for the deflation process which, in many ways, is even more demoralizing. That’s because in order to get all the air out, I — a grown, 45-year-old man — must roll around on top of a plastic sea mammal while holding onto a tiny air nodule located in a region SOMEONE should have realized was going to look highly inappropriate. Not to mention deplete any respectability I had in the eyes of my children.

However, in the end, ask any father who wants his kids to have fun and he’ll tell you the same thing:

It’s just part of the rising cost of inflation.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

58 thoughts on “Parents: Lung capacity is key when choosing an inflatable toy”

  1. “that, when fully inflated, can be seen from space.”—Hahaha, loved that. 🙂

    You are a good dad to do all that. Glad you weren’t tossed into a prison cell for your wayward interstate whale and that no one was injured in the process. Sounds like Shamu came out intact, too. Bet you wish he hadn’t…

              1. LMAO. Whoops! If I do that then I won’t even have the excuse to buy your book. Okay let me write lol instead. There now I still have a reason.
                You totally crack me up.

  2. So, not sure if you have heard of these little inventions called foot pumps. We Canadians use them, perhaps the USA is not as advanced but they save an awful lot of air!

    You still have to roll around on the said inflatable toy to deflate but that’s all part of the cruel game my friend!

          1. He is a perfect example of helium filled, inflatable idiot! He appears to have floated away into rehab somewhere. I think he was last spotted in Balloonia,

              1. You said it! I’m all for giving people a 2nd chance, but seriously. Sometimes you just need to pack up your tent & call it a day!

  3. If it makes you feel any better Ned, I have to say that as a retired long-haul trucker I’ve seen some amazing things fly off of the roofs of cars (and trucks too). I was travelling down a 2 lane road in Nova Scotia early one fall morning when I saw a big, black, gleaming SUV approaching. It had two very proud hunters dressed to the 9’s in their hunting garb proudly proceeding home with a large buck (deer, not a dollar) tied to the roof. The SUV was not set up properly with roof racks and instead had a blanket thrown over the roof and the deer tied with ropes that secured through the windows and inside the vehicle. I’m not much of a hunting guy and I felt sorry for the deer. But it was hunting season. As they approached I thought I saw the deer’s head rise up and figuring it was the wind, I hollered on the CB at the truck travelling behind me: “Did you see that?” The other driver replied: “Yep, must have been the wind. Those guys sure look proud about that poor deer don’t they?” Ahha, a fellow animal lover.As we got closer there seemed to be more movement on the roof. “Wow, looks like that deer is going to blow off.” Just then the deer started thrashing around vigorously, obviously not dead. It’s legs were pounding the roof and the body was slamming up and down, with it’s head bouncing back and forth. Startled I watched as the hunters stared up at their roof in amazement while pulling to the side of the road. The driver behind me started to laugh on the CB: “How do you figure they’re goin’ to get out of that thing without getting pounded? Ha!They’re gonna have to cut those ropes holding the deer in order to even open the doors and it’s illegal for them to shoot the deer close to the road. That fancy SUV is sure gonna need some serious body work when this is over. I think that deer just got a second chance.” I smiled as we passed the SUV with it’s uncooperative roof cargo, pulling onto the shoulder.

    1. That doesn’t make me feel any better about traveling our highways, but it sure does make me feel good about Mother Nature getting a little payback! 🙂

  4. I’ve been known to pass out when inflating large aqua-centric toys. In one instance, I had to have smelling salts administered to revive me. Luckily, I’ve learned to bring a battery-powered pump when having smelling salts administered.

  5. Ned,
    I’m full of hot air, but I suck at inflating… anything.
    You get credit for trying, though. Keep being the “Dad Who Never Gives Up”, buddy.

  6. i could visualize this so well that it left me with smiles a good 30 minutes after i read it, just thinking about

  7. Somebody was laffin’ when they strategically placed that ‘air nodule’ to be sure. LMAO! As soon as we find out WHO the clown is that did this HE/SHE will need an ‘air nodule’ too.

  8. lol, I am right now in Uruguay, Southamerica trying to find out if this lack of oxygen I am having due to inflating a dolphin and swimming pool mattress (just started with the mattress but had to take a break) could be dangerous. Xmas here means swimming pool toys since we are in summer and lots of fireworks at midnight, merry xmas!

    1. I think I could get used to that kind of Chritsmas with enough time. Like say… within an hour oh so?

      Keep the oxygen handy and keep puffing, Liliana!

      Merry Christmas and a happy New Year 😉

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