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How a balloon turned a birthday party into a pint-sized UFC match

The scenario: A two-year-old's birthday in the park.

The innocent thought: A helium Thomas the Tank Engine balloon will help friends locate our camp at a busy playground. The kids won't even know it's there – not when there are slides, monkey bars, cupcakes, and it's flying six feet above their eye level.

The cold reality: Balloon turns party into pint-sized UFC match. Hair is pulled, full-body tackles are thrown, little elbows are dropped in a full-throttle battle for control. The phrase "worst meltdown I've ever seen" is overheard repeatedly. Kids cannot be reasoned with, or bribed – they spit in the face of timeouts. An adult finally takes Thomas behind a tree and puts him (and everyone else) out of his misery.

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Rule to live by: One balloon per kid, or none at all.

Do you have a rookie parenting mistake you'd like to share, for naive moms and dads everywhere? Send it to with "Rookie Mistake" in the subject line.

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