Saturday, September 1, 2007

DCMM: Mixed Emotions

We spent the middle part of our day today at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. You know the place: men strut around in brave knight regalia or feathered hats, women wear obscenely low-cut old-timey dresses ("Why is the Renaissance fair a license to let out your inner skank?" asked my husband), and everyone talks in fake hoity-toity accents.

Here are some words I'd use to describe the experience: Exhausting. Fun. Irritating. Infuriating. Contemplative.

Let's start with Exhausting: Three kids under six wandering in three different directions + two stollers (often empty of children) + two parents + hot sun = exhausting.  From the moment we arrived and middle-child Jack saw the castle entrance and said, "I want to be the queen!" to the brouhaha just before we left over plain vanilla ice cream versus vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, we were constantly herding and corralling, herding and corralling. Thankfully it was not too broiling hot, although it did get warm while we were waiting for the jousting to begin.

Which leads us to Fun: We got to see jousting. Real, honest-to-God horses-and-lances jousting. While we were waiting, Sam, our oldest, predicted, "I'm gonna love this!" while Jack said, "Let the fighting begin!" with full Renaissance Fest gusto. I don't know what team won (Sam claims both teams won, but ours won more), but we were treated to horseplay, hand-to-hand combat and fully armored men on horses. Can't beat that. The next best part was the playground in which there was a giant wooden pirate ship to play on. Other than the fact that 2-year-old Quinn tried to push a baby down the slide (and not in the nice way either), this was the most relaxed part of the day. (Maybe we should have stayed home, saved our money, and walked down the street to the playground instead.)

Which segues into Irritating: That playground and the performances were pretty much the only free things there (after admission, of course). Basically the Renaissance Fest is a big outdoor shopping mall with a theme. And street performers. Did you want to try to climb the swaying rope ladder? $1 for three tries. Do you want to go down a slide on a burlap sack? $1.00. Do you want to try to climb the Dragon Castle's rock wall? $5.00—and that's for the easy route. I understand they're a business, and in their defense, there were a lot of those free shows, but the consumerism gets wearying.

Hence, Infuriating: Lots of activities, games, and food stands that he wants to participate in minus permission/money to do so = an incredibly whiny Sam. "Moooooommmm, can I play this game? I totally know how to. Moooooooommmm! Please, Mooooommmmm! I really want to play this game." "Moooooooommmmm! Can we buy a sword? Moooooommmmm, please! I really want a sword. But it's totally different than the one I already have at home, Moooooommm." You get the idea. By the end of the day I wanted to wring his little neck.

And then on to Contemplative: There are some activities that we do as a family that end in me spending most of the time feeling semi-irritated while my husband asks me over and over what's wrong. (Which just makes me more irritated. Do you see the cycle here?) And I can never quite put my finger on why I'm so annoyed. There are always a million and six small things that I could name but none seem big enough to ruin my day. Yet, I still grump around. And it's not like I'm normally a grump either. Often I am embarrassing in my giddy enjoyment of things we do with our kids.

On the drive home from the Renaissance Fest today, I thought about why this might be, and I might have come up with an answer. I dislike the way my children act when they are somewhere that nickel and dimes them to death, and we don't give them all the nickels and dimes they want. I don't want to raise spoiled children and it's not like we have enough disposable income to buy ponies or anything, but we are fortunate to have enough money to do things like take our kids to Fests and fairs and other fun things. I just wish they would accept when we will not pay for something and show some gratitude when we do.

Not all of it is their fault. We do go places where all the little side attractions are free. Or we'll get them wristbands that give them admission to most of the extras. So it's not like I can expect them to somehow intuit that all these things cost money. I guess next time we'll have to do our homework so we know what to expect so we can tell the little dudes what to expect. Then maybe I won't be in such a pissy mood all day.

But some of it is their (our?) fault: When we were driving away, I told the guys, "For the most part you guys were very good. Thank you very much."

To which Sam instantly replied, "What do we get?"

Clearly I'm doing something wrong. I fumed silently to myself as I told him, "You get a good feeling knowing that you behaved well."

We're never leaving the house again.

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