When I was little, the best birthday parties included piñata, ice cream cake, cool party favors and helium balloons. I still fondly recall the thrill of breaking open the piñata while blind folded and rushing to fill the little bag with candy. The tastiest cakes were from Baskin Robins with one of 31 ice cream flavors in between the cake layers. My favorite party favors were the Click Clacks (potential eye pocker outers!); my least favorite party favor was the Mexican Finger Trap (I could never understand their attraction, but I certainly received a lot of them). I most loved the small candy pills neatly attached to a roll of paper; it was the perfect culinary combination of sugar and paper!
Finally, who could not resist at the end of the party (and we did this well into our teen years), piercing a small hole in a balloon, inhaling helium and then speaking in a high pitched voice. This is why I was so shocked to read a terrible article about a teenager who died while inhaling helium from a tank. This article brought to light two things: (1) We have encouraged our children to inhale helium. Who amongst us has not pierced a hole in a balloon and showed our little ones how delightful the helium voice is? (2) The 14-year-old girl who died, had lied to her parents: she said she was going to a friend’s sleep over and instead went to a 27-year-old’s party with alcohol, marijuana and a helium tank! Instead of hearing her voice change when she inhaled from the helium tank, she died.
So much about this fatal helium story is simply CHOICES. CHOICES our teens make that have consequences. The consequences so often are minor and yet at the time, they make us MN Parents crazy: how could our MN Teenagers be so stupid, thoughtless and reckless? Obviously, this story was about a MN teenager’s CHOICE that ended her life; I think most Ninja Parents deepest and darkest fear.
The easy solution is to add inhaling Helium from a tank to the list of scary things we discuss with our MN Teens to avoid, but it is even more important to watch your teens very well and this is not easy! It requires making calls to the house where your 14-year-old claims to be sleeping; knowing or contacting the parents where your MN Teen will be attending a party; driving them to and from the party yourself; being involved and present in their plans and yet at the same time, letting them go independently and navigate their social lives with the good tools we have imparted upon them. And worst of all, they scream and yell at us with a wide range of attacks about not trusting them, trying to ruin their lives and completely not understanding what their lives are like! This is a fundamental argument I have had with my MN Teenagers! Little by little, as they got older, I became less and less involved and had to trust them and their decisions, but I never stopped listening and watching. I also never stopped worry! Being the Ninja Parent to MN Teenagers scarily reminds me of the Mexican finger trap!
P.S. HELIUM NOTE: Inhaling Helium deprives the body of oxygen like holding your breath. If one inhales a lot of helium, the body’s oxygen level can be reduced to fatal levels in a few seconds. Sucking from a balloon can cause a child to pass out; Sucking helium from a gas tank can cause a person’s lungs to burst or hemorrhage, which can be fatal.