This past weekend we took the kids to the circus. It’s something that we do just about every year. In fact last year when we missed it, we heard about it all year long from the 9 year old. It amazes me that my kids actually ask to do this year after year, especially Brendan. Yet they do ask about it and look forward to it year after year, and it’s mostly Brendan.
It’s not that I don’t think the kids should enjoy the circus, it’s just knowing my kids the way I do I can’t believe they WANT to go. Kaylee, I suppose, is too young to really understand that she shouldn’t want to go. As we found out at Christmas, Kaylee has an extreme fear of clowns. And what are the most common things at a circus? Clowns. Of course I didn’t think of this irrational fear when we were getting the tickets, otherwise I might have made arrangements to have her go somewhere else while the rest of us attended the circus. Instead the thought occurred to me the day before, and at that point it was really too late to do anything about it, so we brought her to her own personal clown hell.
On the other hand, Brendan is definately old enough to understand whether or not he will or won’t like something. And one thing that he does not like is a lot of noise. Generally when he’s put into a situation where there is a lot of noise and activity one of two things happens. Either he gets out of sorts and will begin display his current nervous tick, or he will melt down completely over some miniscule detail. Despite knowing this, it never seems to stop him from wanting to do things like this. We’ve learned to allow him to choose whether he wants to put himself into a specific situation or not, and to deal with the consequences afterward.
Cameron is just hard to take anywhere. He has two modes, neither of which are good for crowded situations. He either gets wild and crazy, and way out of hand…or he gets stubborn and obstinant and makes it difficult to do anything. I’m still trying to decide which is the worst one to deal with. All four year olds are rambunctious, but Cameron can border on pure insanity. He has more energy than any 5 people should possess, and he just can not harness it. If there’s space to run, he will. If there are objects to climb, he’ll climb them. If there’s a ledge or step, he must jump off of it. He doesn’t talk, he yells. And that’s just when he’s feeling wild. When he’s stubborn he’s all of these same things with the added element of not doing anything that you want him to.
So this is what we knew going into the circus. We went a couple hours before the circus actually started because they have a little carnival set up on the floor below the circus where the kids can play games and things before settling down to the circus. The kids had a great time, but for mom and dad it wasn’t so fun. First, we didn’t think this through very well. It’s the middle of winter so 4 out of 5 of us had on winter coats. (I was not wearing mine because I was headed to hockey right after the circus, and I dress in layers to prevent the need to drag my coat into the arena) In the lower level of the arena with hundreds of other people, it was quite warm and we quickly shed the coats we were wearing. But then, what to do with them? Carry them of course. Four winter coats are quite akward, heavy, and HOT.
But we were managing okay as we took the kids through the carnival. That is until we took the kids to the first bounce house. All three kids eagerly paid their tokens to enter and began to clamber through the obstacle course. Well, somewhere along the way Kaylee became quite frightened and had to be retrieved out of the bouncy house. After that, she had no intention of doing anything fun. So now, along with the winter coats, we were having to lug around the 2 year old. She went between walking, demanding to be carried, and wanting to go a different direction from the group. But by her not wanting to play any of the games it did allow the boys to have additional tokens to spend which made them happy, but by the time the tokens were all spent and it was time to go up to the circus Matt and I were more than ready to be done with the carnival and to sit down and enjoy the show.
Our seats were directly in line with the center ring, and just a few rows back from the action. This had the dual effect of keeping the kids interest more effectively, and of course preying on Brendan and Kaylee’s issues. Luckily with so much going on, Kaylee didn’t seem to notice the copious amount of clowns wandering around the ring. At least not until (as part of the show) one clown vaulted over the wall right in front of us and ran up the stairs to our left. I thought she was going to crawl up my arm when that happened. Meanwhile Brendan was predictably agitated by the show, but he was having a ball. He was seated next to me at first, and out of the corner of my eye I could see him watching the show with rapt attention, and flapping his arms intermittently as he does when he’s extremely agitated. It’s quite a disturbing sight if you aren’t used to it, but we’ve determined that he isn’t even aware he’s doing it.
Originally we were sitting all in one row with Brendan and Cameron on the ends, Matt and I each next to one of them and Kaylee in the middle. Matt’s sister and her family were seated in the row behind us, and as the show progressed we all began to shift seats. First, Cameron didn’t like being on the outside of Matt, so they switched places. Then our 5 year old nephew wanted to sit next to his cousin, and since Kaylee was more interested in sitting in my lap than she was her own seat, we moved him down next to Cameron. Next, Brendan was feeling left out so I offered to change places with him, but that didn’t interest him. My 12 year old niece offered to scoot over and let him sit next to her, and that made him feel better so he moved up into the row behind me.
Once everyone was settled into their new seats, things progressed more smoothly. The kids were enjoying the different aspects of the show. Some liked the acrobatics, some liked the animal shows, all loved the clowns and the keystone kops (even Kaylee–seeing as they were across the arena from us they were no threat to her). But as the show progressed my kids started whining about being hungry and thirsty. When we’d orignally planned this out we thought the 4 pm show would be the best bet because the kids would get their nap in, and be rested and ready to go. What we forgot to consider was that we almost always go to the carnival ahead of time which meant that the kids didn’t get a nap after all, and that the 4:00 show would run until 6:30 which is right smack dab in the middle of my kids normal dinner time.
And with the way my kids have been eating lately (see Feeding Frenzy) missing our regular meal time wasn’t pretty. But around 5:15 or so there was an intermision, so while Matt stayed with the kids I went to the concession stand and got the kids a snack and a drink. I’ll admit that cotton candy and soda aren’t the most nutritious snack in the world, but it had the effect we were hoping in keeping the kids occupied for the remainder of the show. Kaylee took a bite or two of her cotton candy before focusing on her soda, so Matt and I finished off her batch. Cameron ate a bit more, but wasn’t able to finish his either. He again, was more thirsty than hungry and chugged down his soda fairly quickly.
The only one who ate all of his cotton candy was Brendan. That kid loves cotton candy. He can’t get enough of it. If I’d let him he’d have it every single day. But beyond the lack of nutritional value of cotton candy, I can not stand watching him eat it. Part of it stems from my spit phobia. Watching him slobber all over his fingers as he consumes the cotton candy is difficult for me. And recently it’s become harder and harder for me to manage it because of his current tick. For whatever reason Brendan has taken to licking his palms.
Every school year it seems he picks up a different tick to indicate he’s stressed out about something. He’s twirled a piece of his hair until it wouldn’t lay down any more, pulled all the hair out of his eyebrow, and chewed on the sleeves of countless long sleeved shirts. They’re difficult for others to notice, but once you know what you’re looking for they become easy to spot. So between the normal sticky gooiness of eating cotton candy, Brendan will lick every inch of his hands in the process making more and more of the cotton candy stick to him. But he enjoyed it and ate every single molecule of the candy.
By the time the circus had ended, the kids were getting restless and were very ready to go and have their dinner. But they were also happy to have been able to go to the circus and talked about their favorite and least favorite things from the show all the way home. Matt and I may have been a bit frazzled but the important thing was, the kids had a good time.