Well, I stepped through the holy portal of parenting last night as my friend Cindy and I took our sons to the circus. Now, what I remember of my own circus experience as a child was quite different from the spectacle at Philip's Arena last night. Or, perhaps being a child makes it seem much more magical and less like a giant facade.
I know I've been on this "commercialization" kick of late with the whole Valentine's experience, but last night proved something to me.
Yes, there is a certain right of passage in childhood about seeing a three-ring circus. The sights, the sounds, and yes, even the smells, are magical at his age (four). One highlight, of course, is the table after table of circus workers hocking gizmos and trinkets like horse heads containing sno cones and lighted swords with a clown on the handle (which I'll reference momentarily...)
They also had bags of cotton candy with some thin, felt-like hat attached to it.
From the moment we walked in the door, Daniel had begged for cotton candy. And, to tell you the truth, I had a hankering for it myself. So, I walked up to the vendor and asked the price of the cotton candy. "Ten dollars," he replied. "TEN DOLLARS?!," I exclaimed. "Well, you do get this hat that only cost 20 cents to make along with it..." (OK, so I made that part up...but that had to be the rationale behind the price tag) "Well, can I get some cotton candy WITHOUT the hat?" "Nope." He sheepishly grinned knowing he was sending me back to a fate worse than death when I tell my four year old he cannot have any cotton candy.
But, when I got back and explained that it was too expensive and we would have to get some another time, Daniel was fine. No fit. No tantrum. Wow. Now, those of you that know I got these tickets for free might be thinking that $10 for cotton candy wasn't that big a deal in the scheme of things...BUT--it's the principle of it. I had just paid $3.25 for a Coke and $4.00 for a small thing of popcorn (I know, where was my "principle" then?) Well, I had to draw the line somewhere!
Overall, the circus was exciting for them. The seats we were given were in a box suite which, although nice and comfy with a private bathroom, made it a little hard to feel like you were "at the circus." It was more like being a bird--a great vantage point but not as entrancing as being down near the action.
On our way out the door, one last attempt was made to sucker me into spending money. The guy on the sidewalk was selling the once $10 light sword for a bargain $5. Of course, the very tired and sensory-overloaded love of my life says "I want one." "No , honey...you have plenty of toys." "But, Momma...I wannnnnt onnnneeee..." "No, baby. We're not going to get one right now. We need to get to our car." (whining ensues) As we get on the packed elevator, a hushed silence falls over us and my child whines rather loudly, "But, Mommy, they're only FIVEEEE DOLLARSSSSSSS..........." It must have been comic relief for the other weary parents as a burst of laughter erupted. That didn't phase Daniel as he boo-hooed all the way to the car. Then I had Cindy take a picture of us with him crying so I could show him how he looked pitching a fit. When I did, this crooked little smile appeared on his mouth and that was the end of it.
I did learn a thing or two about parenting last night. Not that I'm always guilty of it, but children don't need every gadget in the place to have a good time at an event like that. There were kids coming out of there with painted faces, bags of toys, cotton candy in one hand, 20 cent felt hat on their head and they were STILL whining.
My favorite memory will always be the giggles of the boys as they watched the clowns being silly up close during the pre-show. Their unabashed laughter was contagious. That is what the circus is all about. Not light swords or glow-in-dark spinning thingies. It's about the wonder in my child's eyes at something so simple as a clown "tripping" over a ball. Those are the moments that make it all worthwhile...