Between going to our county fair and camping in Branson in 100 degree weather, it’s been a busy, and sweat-drenched weekend.
I’ll talk about our camping trip tomorrow, but for now, I’d like to focus on the fair.
Our county fair has fallen the last week of July since,
forever I was a kid. You know as a kid, you didn’t keep track of time – things happened when they happened – hence the reason time moved slowly back then, who kept track of minutes or days?
But I always knew when the fair was getting close because my mom would barricade herself in her sewing room finishing up last minute projects she had entered into the fair. And when the fair actually arrived, she would spend most of her time in the kitchen, baking pies, cookies, breads and all sorts of sweet confections that we (me, my sister and brother) were allowed to finish up or consume (I LOVED it when mom made baking mistakes – we were allowed to eat her mistakes).
I have a lot of fond memories of the fair as a child: rides, snow cones, funnel cakes, greasy corndogs, the duck pond, grab bags and of course, the creepy men who ran the carnival games that no one ever won.
I don’t remember going to the fair a lot when I was a young adult. I went a few times with friends and we rode the more “sophisticated” rides (i.e. the rides that roll your stomach over and turn your face a lovely shade of green). But for the most part, I don’t think I went very often in the time period after high school and before kids.
Then, the boys came along and I was obligated to take them to the fair. I spent the majority of my time making sure they kept cool, got to see the sights, ride a few kiddie rides and pet the zoo animals. In essence, I was too distracted to really ENJOY the fair myself.
Then the boys got a little older and we all had fun riding rides together. I took a Dramamine and I was able to handle the heat and the dizzy rides.
Now, we’re at the stage where my boys are teenagers and hanging around with mom? Ain’t that cool anymore. In fact, it’s downright unacceptable. I try not to take it personally (I fail), and I understand their need to do their own thing (most of the time), but you know how it is – I’m MOM, I can’t just LET THEM GO COMPLETELY. I don’t have it in me. So, we try and find a happy medium – the boys stay with me, but always about ten paces behind so it doesn’t really LOOK like they’re with me. If you don’t have teenagers, you don’t know what I’m talking about – just wait, your turn is coming.
The same can be said about the fair. For the past few years, it’s been me, my mom, my nephews and my boys. My mom and I led the pack of boys around by their noses and dutifully stood by while they rode rides. My mom can’t really take the heat too well anymore, so we would usually find a patch of shade and vigorously fan ourselves until the boys were ready to move on to something else.
It’s been fun, but the older mom and I get, the less we’re willing to do that whole “stand by and watch” thing anymore.
So, this year, my mom suggested that we drop the boys off at the fair and we would go shopping. Keep in mind, the “boys” are now 18, 16, 13, and 12. Plenty old enough to walk around an enclosed area and choose to do what they wanted to do for a few hours.
When my mom first suggested this, I was all like, “WHAT?! ARE YOU CRAZY?!” But then I stopped to think about what she was suggesting. On the one hand, I want them to be independent of us, to make their own decisions, to live with their own mistakes, and yet on the other hand, I can’t allow them to get into a situation where they CAN do these things.
I’m creating a catch-22 situation for my boys. Something, correction, someONE, has to give in.
So, I reluctantly agreed to her suggestion. I talked to the boys. I told them to make a game plan. For example, what were they going to do if someone got separated (I hesitated to say “lost,” I didn’t want to freak them OR me out). I asked them what they were going to do if one of the aggressive carnival guys approached them. I asked them what they would do if this happened, or this happened … etc. etc. I think I made them more nervous by bringing up these things.
When I told the boys what we were proposing, they were initially nervous about being left on their own. But I could tell, they were also excited. This was, after all, a first for all of us – a taste of independence both them from me, and me from them.
I made sure GD had his cell phone. I made sure both boys had plenty of money. And when it came time to drop them off at the fair, I steeled myself to not freak out and act like it was no big deal.
They were a bit hesitant to walk away when the time came, but they soon fell into a pattern only kids can fall into (oblivious to the world around them and only focused on having fun together) and my mom and I drove off.
I wouldn’t exactly say I was nervous, but I was apprehensive. What would they do? Where would they go? Would they be able to handle anything that might happen?
My mom and I ended up eating lunch at McAllister’s, being physically comfortable and enjoying a long chat (as opposed to snippets of yelled conversation above the fair noise and sweating off several meals).
And when it was close to the time we agreed to meet the boys, we arrived at the designated spot.
Only, the boys weren’t there.
But I didn’t panic. In fact, I took that to be a good sign – they were having so much fun that time slipped away from them and they didn’t realize the time.
It was better than watching every minute and showing up before it was time to meet because they were too nervous to HAVE a good time, right?
We sat for a while and watched this dude while we waited for them to show up:
He was completely covered in silver and until he moved, I thought he was a statue. He moved with robotic precision and I happened to capture him bent over and giving this little guy a slow high five.
My mom and I bought ourselves lemonade and attended her cheese ball judging contest (she placed third out of seven – not bad!). After the judging was over, I went back to the place the boys were to meet us at – they were there, looking flushed, hot, happy and very animated – they had a blast.
They ate lunch, they rode rides and they even played one of those creepy carnival games and won not one, but two Sonic plushie toys. Though they didn’t exactly gush all the details (they’re boys after all), we could tell, they truly had a great time.
They once again fell into a comfortable ten-paces-behind-us routine while me and mom walked around and looked at the exhibits.
I thought this dress, made entirely out of duct tape, was especially impressive:
(In fact, every exhibit you see in this picture was made from duct tape – pretty impressive, yes?)
Going to the fair this year marked a monumental moment in our lives. It was a turning point for me (allowing the boys to go out on their own) and for the boys (to be responsible for their own actions). I’m quite certain this is the beginning of their independence.
Thanks mom, GREAT suggestion. 🙂