Mama Madison: When a mom hates an activity...

If you can't stand it, should you take your kids anyway?

This coming weekend the Zor Shrine Circus will be in town. The spectacle, which takes place at the Alliant Energy Center, promises tiger tricks, comical canines and aerialists who perform on "lengths of fabric hung high in the air." There will be synchronized motorcycle riding, performing camels and elephants, as well as Ivanov, "the crazy, cavorting clown."

I am also guessing there will be Shriners. And I can think of very little that is more entertaining than watching of a gaggle of grown men driving miniature fire trucks while sporting jaunty red fezzes.

From the sounds of things, one really could argue that the circus is "The Greatest Show on Earth" -- although that tagline belongs to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey traveling show, which has no Wisconsin stop on its national tour. Not even in Baraboo, the enterprise's historic winter base and home of the Circus World Museum.

But I have no plans to take my kids to check out what's under the "Big Top" this year. Or any year, in fact. Because I really don't like the circus.

It may be because my cult film fanatic older brother introduced me to the 1932 horror movie "Freaks" at way too early of an age. Perhaps I am averse to the sensory overload that three simultaneous rings of trapezes, tightropewalkers, and human cannonballs can cause. And while I am absolutely fine with a little "guy liner" on an entertainer here and there, I find clown make-up and the men who wear it absolutely terrifying. I felt this way long before John Wayne Gacy and Stephen King's "IT'; Ronald is just one of many reasons I've never been a big fan of McDonald's.

I've never even taken the kids to see Cirque De Soleil when it's come through town at the Overture Center. I'm sure the Canadian performing arts extravaganza is every bit as breathtaking as I've been told. But I'm sorry, guys, you lost me at "Cirque."

Versions of this same parenting issue -- my children can't do it because I don't like it -- seem to creep up in other places in my life. My kids don't downhill ski because I have no interest in mastering a sports which requires balancing on long plastic feet and heading down a mountain (or I guess in Wisconsin, a large hill) as fast as possible. We don't take lake vacations because I'd rather head to a metropolitan area. And I've always felt a little guilty my kids didn't get to watch much Caillou when they were little; I am sure there were marvelous moral lessons to be learned from the PBS kids show. But there has always been something about that bald, sickly sweet Canadian cartoon kid that just completely weirds me out.

I know kids don't have an inalienable right to circuses, skiing or insipid television. But I do though feel kind of bad about depriving them of things that seem like amusement rites of passage just because they give their mother the heebie-jeebies.

How have you handled exposing your kids to events, activities and adventures that you have no interest in participating in? And perhaps more importantly, are there any clown lovers out there who want to take my kids to check out "Ivanov" this coming weekend? Because I'd rather be just about any place else -- even skiing. Although preferably not while watching Caillou.

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