Last summer I confronted my mother, “I’m blaming you, Mom. The reason I have no maternal urges is because you never got me a baby doll when I was a kid.” She looked at me and laughed. “Honey, you never had a baby doll because you never wanted one. I’ve known since you were 4 that I wouldn’t be a grandma.” This confession left me so speechless that I neglected to point out a story she’d told me numerous times: as a child, she’d left her baby doll out in the rain over night and its face had peeled off. Any thing fucked up about me, I now blame it on that.
I listen to my friends moon over babies “That baby is SO CUTE I can’t stand it!” I shrug my shoulders. I listen to friends, “OMG I want a baby NOW. I mean, I know it’s not the place I am in life, but ahhh I want one!” Or “When I have a family, I’m totally moving back to San Francisco.” Such talk freaks me out a little. For me it’s not “WHEN I have a baby” it’s “IF I have a baby”. Big difference. Those same friends say, “Oh, it just hasn’t kicked in yet. Some day soon you’ll look a kid and your ovaries will ache.” “Uh..that’s what Midol is for?” I reply.
A baby starts crying on the subway, I switch cars. I suppose I haven’t been around them enough. Being an only child doesn’t help. My only babysitting experience helps even less. (It was a disaster. I was fourteen, I couldn’t get the kid to go to bed, and she peed in an armchair right before her parents got home.) I feel a little awkward around young children, like I don’t really know what I’m doing.
There are hundreds of children at a renaissance faire. Perhaps even more children than drunks (well, not after 5pm). I started out slow, admiring the “unicorns beautious princesses” rode (that would be a little girl- the princess- on the shoulder’s of her dad- the unicorn. Turns out dads get a kick out of being called a “unicorn”.) Then I discovered kids are really fun to play with. My imagination as an improviser must be good, but an 8-year-old kicks my ass, imagination wise. There is nothing better than the look of awe or glee on a kid’s face as a reaction to you.
There was a little girl, probably 8 years old, who came to the faire with her mother. She started off the day in street clothes, a little shy, but with wide eyes that were clearly seeing everything as wonderful and soaking all in. By mid day she had rented a renaissance outfit (yep, that’s something you can do at these fairs) and with her 21st century guise gone, her shyness melted away. She was so engaged, taking in everything, incorporating it, remembering things you’d said before and asking questions about them, always ready to give me a new idea for how to make Sir Francis notice me or where we could find treasure. She was trying desperately to pick up the 16th century language, she came back the next day and by the end of the weekend had a remarkable handle on it. Her mother told one of the cast members, one of the few parents in the cast actually, that she had been struggling horribly at school. That the kids picked on her, she hadn’t made any friends, and she was miserable. Someone had recommended to her mom that she bring her daughter to our renaissance faire.
The girl and her mom came back 5 times over the summer, we learned they’d traveled several hours from Vermont. You could see how the faire actually changed this little girls life. That she was picked on for being smart and interested in learning and probably for loving imagination games. The she came to the Ren Faire and we actors accepted her into our world and you could just see how amazing that was for her, and the gratitude shone in her mom’s eyes.
I received a Facebook message from a little boy’s dad, thanking me for playing with his son
Thanks a bunch for being such a great Piratess to my son this last weekend (and also, thanks for being so patient). He had a blast and really enjoyed you and the crew. And he’s pretty convinced that he really wants to be the “first mate of the crows nest.” Take care and have a great Faire.
He hunted me down on Facebook just to tell me that. I was really touched.
So after a summer of playing “Let’s pretend” with kids (and adults) I definitely feel like I understand them better. Less awkward, more “Kids are awesome!” There have even been a couple of times where I’ve said “Whoa, that is a CUTE baby.” I wouldn’t go so far as to say the ol’ maternal clock is ticking, but I think the second hand might be quavering. That either means it’s broken or it’s getting warmed up. Only time will tell.