This is a sponsored excerpt from Lynn Brunelle’s Mama Gone Geek: Calling on my Inner Science Nerd to Help Navigate the Ups and Downs of Parenthood.
Sucking the Bounce
I can’t jump on the trampoline with my kids anymore.
Hell, I know it’s not even safe to let them do it in the first place; but there it is. I think the plusses outweigh the minuses.
Our trampoline, also known as a huge “attractive nuisance,” sits in the backyard right next to the awesome zip line Keith put in when he turned fifty. (Is there a correlation? Maybe.) Anyway, the trampoline has enabled my guys (and myself) to bounce-bounce-bounce in the loveliest of ways. It’s just wonderful to use that potential energy and transfer of energy to get so high in the air. God bless you, Isaac Newton!
“Mommy, Mommy, bounce with us, PLEASE!” Kai and Leo plead in tandem.
At first I thought it was because they just loved being with me and playing together. I cherish these moments, because as they get older, I know it’s only a matter of time before they won’t be able to handle the embarrassment of seeing their mother on the trampoline.
“Of course!” I say. No matter what I was doing, I would drop it and bounce. It’s fun! And not without side benefits. My aerobic capacity has increased, and my legs are downright steely.
It took me a while to realize what was really going on.
Leo’s agenda was to perfect his flips, twists, and other acrobatics. My job was to sit on the trampoline and watch him twist and spin through the air and then attempt my own version of “flipping,” which was a baby roll. Sad, but elegant in its way. Leo utilized my efforts as a benchmark of comparison to which his own stunts reflected like gold.
Anyone would look like an Olympian next to me. I was happy to serve my role.
While Leo perfected his gymnastics and his confidence, Kai was working some serious physics.
“How does the trampoline make me bounce so high?”
“How do you think it might work?”
“I bounce down and it bounces me back up?”
“Exactly. Look, there’s a frame made of metal and all these springs. Then there’s the stretchy fabric. That’s a trampoline. Bounce down on it and you are loading this thing with energy. The springs stretch out and are loaded with power. When they snap back, they pull the fabric tight, and all the energy you put in with your jump flings you right back into the air.”
“So a big bounce makes me fly higher?”
“And the more I weigh, the bigger the bounce?”
“Yup. The harder you push down on the trampoline, the more energy is stored, the more powerful the snap back will be that will send you soaring through the air—”
“Come on Mom, BOUNCE!”
We did; but suddenly I was no longer sailing joyfully into the air. I was bouncing and working hard, but getting no lift. Kai, on the other hand, was flying higher than ever. He was figuring out how to jump at the exact spot and time to suck the energy from my considerable bounce and use it to fling himself sky high.
It was brilliant and exciting. It was also physically deflating and exhausting for me. My jumps were no longer high flying, but Kai’s were off the charts. We would go on like that for a time, and then I would collapse in a heap on the trampoline. Kai would join me and we’d look up into the trees overhead. One of us having sucked the bounce, the other sucking wind.
“I go SOOO high when I bounce with you!”
“Yup.” Pant. Pant. “Technically, the entire total of your energy is made up of the moving energy called kinetic energy plus the stored-in-the-springs energy—your potential energy.”
I may make a huge bounce and only be capable of a baby roll, but I could still pull my weight with science at least!
“Mommy, you have a LOT of stored energy!”
What mother wouldn’t love to hear that?
Kai was up and bouncing. Ready to make more experiments.
The fact that Kai used my energy to fly higher was a metaphor I could understand. It was beautiful in its way, but kind of frustrating. I still wanted the air.
Hell, I needed the air at that moment. I lay flat on the trampoline as Kai bounced. I breathed deeply. Still gasping. It was all I could do to keep up with my boys, but to launch them to new heights was exhausting my resources.
I gazed up into the air. It was late summer. The light slanted through the pine trees and the air itself with dotted with dandelion fluff, tree fuzz, and various tiny seeds and spores. It dawned on me that this trampoline dance of ours was more than just a metaphor for the energy that we put into parenting, it was a symbol for the nature of all things. Parents of all sorts stand up to launch their offspring—from the top of the heap right down to the bottom dwellers—as best they can into the world. It wasn’t just me. It was the throbbing life on the planet, all doing the same thing.
Ponder, as I did prone on the trampoline, the microscopic dung-loving fungi (called coprophilous—if you must know). It’s not an elegant job they provide but a necessary one. If not for microbes like these, we’d be up to our eyeballs in cow dung, horse dung, llama dung, and any other array of friendly herbivore dung. Not good.
The mature fungi have a challenge. In order to survive, they need to make sure their spores are eaten by the herbivores that produce the dung. It’s their circle of life. Think about that the next time you’re having a rough day. Spore into the cow—fungus pooped out.
Here’s the thing—even the dimmest herbivore knows not to graze near where it poops. Since poop is where the fungus lives, and it doesn’t have any legs to move around with, that makes it tough for a fungus to get its spores far enough away and into the path of a hungry herbivore. Its job is to make sure its spores are going to be eaten.
So these fungi have developed ways to really launch their spores out into the world: the stalks that grow out of the dung swell with fluid. The spore is perched on top. The fungus matures. It measures about 1/20 of an inch tall. The fluid builds up at the end and then BLAMMO—it explodes, shooting the spore at speeds of thirty-five feet per second! That’s the fastest recorded flight in nature! The spore gets height as well, reaching peaks of over six feet and landing eight feet away from the parent fungus. Technically the fungus can launch its seed over a cow from a dung pile to a patch of tasty grass in the blink of an eye. The mature fungus then collapses. Its job is done. Energy expended. Spore launched.
The irony is not lost on me.
Our boys were experimenting and staring down limitations of physical and epic proportions. It synced up perfectly with the beginning of the bittersweet journey into separation and identity, puberty, and beyond.
Kai and Leo needed me now. I was helping to load their springs. I know it won’t be long before they dazzle the world with the flips and heights they’ll reach on their own.
* * *
Use a basketball and a tennis ball to bounce the tennis ball higher than the roof.
What You Need
- A basketball
- A tennis ball
What You Do
- Hold the basketball at shoulder height, and with your other hand, hold the tennis ball directly on top of the basketball.
- Drop both balls at the same time.
- The tennis ball should bounce off the charts!
What’s Going On?
The basketball hits the ground, but that’s not all. The ground also hits the basketball giving it the energy for a “bounce.” The basketball is way heavier than the tennis ball, so it’s got a lot more energy in its bounce. With the tennis ball on top of the basketball, the basketball hits the ground, it bounces back up and hits the tennis ball. So now some of the basketball’s energy gets transferred to the tennis ball. It may not be much to the basketball, but to the tennis ball, it’s a huge amount of energy. The basketball kind of flops. It doesn’t bounce high at all. But the tennis ball bounces super high! It gets launched! It’s all about energy transfer!
Read an interview with Lynn Brunelle.