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Pennsic [Aug. 20th, 2012|04:33 pm]
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People keep asking, so I'll just put it out there that I'm still not entirely sure whether it was fun or not.

There was a point on Tuesday where I very nearly burst into tears, put the kid in the car and drove to the airport to beg for a ticket change. I even asked him that day, and not in a mean or punitive way, "is this just too much? do you just want to give up and go home?" He said no, and I don't know what it was, but something just sort of settled after that. The rest of the week really wasn't too bad. (Until we had to leave on Saturday, and he threw the world's biggest tantrum, but that was not unanticipated; child does not do well with change.)

I kind of gave up on having adult conversations, dancing, classes, staying up past 8:30 p.m., or sitting through a full theatrical performance of anything. However, I also saw a side of Pennsic I haven't really seen in a while. We stopped and watched the jugglers on Urchin Row. We listened to the harpist. We spent an hour picking out lampworked beads. We spent every afternoon drinking frozen drinks and eating olives and pastries in the Vagabond. I sat in the playground and talked to the other people crazy enough or committed enough to bring toddlers to a mile-square danger minefield. I watched him play. I watched him negotiate. We went to the swimming hole. I walked miles and miles, pushing the stroller and praying the kid would finally nap. I watched fifteen minutes here or there of a dozen performers for whom I wouldn't ordinarily have stopped, and I didn't feel guilty for leaving. I learned to trust the kid to maintain his own safety when out of direct line of sight of a supervising adult for more than two minutes. We ran out in the rain, laughing like weirdos and got soaked through. He fell asleep on my lap. He helped wash dishes. We picked up ice together. He slept through the night in underwear and woke up dry for the first time. I watched him grow up a lot in a very short amount of time.

So, was it fun? I still don't know. There were the inevitable temper tantrums, the hauling him out of camp for naughty behavior, the hauling him back to camp for naughty behavior, sitting in the sweltering tent as the child served yet another time-out sentence in the stroller....

...and yet. When I got back, the first day at home Norah told me "you should take him to Pennsic more often. He's been good as gold." He's still sleeping in underwear. We set up the tent to dry at John and Jess' house and the kid asked if we were back at Pennsic, since that was his "Pennsic house" going up.

I know lots of folks send their kids to Camp Grandma for the war, and the why of it makes perfect sense to me. But as a working parent whose time with the kid is already compacted into "morning arguments", "evening witching hour," and "overbooked weekend," there is something valuable about a full week of just "time" instead of "quality time."

I don't know. I'll probably do it again next year. It's just my kind of crazy.
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[User Picture]From: jtdiii
2012-08-21 01:48 am (UTC)

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Other than some minor tantrums he was well behaved. Pennsic is tough on kids, he did pretty well.
[User Picture]From: safiya_shirazi
2012-08-22 03:00 pm (UTC)

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Different kids do differently. I understand that you wanted the time with Nathan and that you were willing to give up a lot to get that time with him. I feel kind of bad that you couldn't work out some kind of relief arrangement so you could have some kind of adult time at Pennsic, but that's probably a lot of me projecting my needs and values onto you :)

I think a lot of my prejudices against kids at Pennsic come from exposure to parents who don't know their kids well enough to realize that their specific kids are a danger to themselves and others and expect other people to alter their lives and change their Pennsics to accommodate their children. You didn't do that, and you know Nathan well enough to know his limitations and his strengths.

Sophy is generally a good kid, but I don't think Pennsic is really right for her. I'm glad you still found Pennsic to be a worthwhile experience with Nathan.
[User Picture]From: richenza
2012-08-23 08:09 pm (UTC)

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Yeah, I hear you. Even having a basically child-positive Pennsic I ran into a few of the folks you mention. And of course, Pennsic-with-kids is a deeply personal cost/benefit decision.

I did wish that I could have managed more adult time, although I don't think I could have done a whole lot better than I did. I don't like to leave him in someone else's care when I know he is not going to be passably well-behaved (i.e. has skipped nap, had refused to eat, etc.) and predicting when I would get the mix of food/sleep/exercise right to have him in an accommodating mood was... challenging.

I do sort of wish there were more child-appropriate spaces at Pennsic, as I feel like there is some unexploited potential there. Certainly, it does seem odd at times to have a "Middle Ages" that is essentially free of animals and children.