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.

comments powered by Disqus

More to read

Loading More Articles
No More Articles

Mama Madison: Parental dice rolls?

Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."

Mama Madison: What constitutes a keepsake?

As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.

Mama Madison: Young love

Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.

Mama Madison: What a mother fears most

All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.

Operation Fresh Start's Youth Conservation Corps helps kids, and kids help parks

Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.

Mama Madison: Summer stress solved by yoga

The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.

Mama Madison: The greatest fans of road repair

Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.

Mama Madison: The alarm sounds

As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.

Mama Madison: My summer book list

For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.

Make Music Madison gives young artists a chance to perform

The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.

Mama Madison: Watching talent grow

Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.

Mama Madison: Writing time at Olbrich

If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.

Mama Madison: When UW-Madison's semester is over, the kids want out too

There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.

Mama Madison: Another amazing talent show

My passion for the talent show clearly runs deep, but I'm more than just a fangirl. This year marked my second as one of the "Ziegfelds" of the Follies, Hamilton's annual showcase for singers, musicians, dancers and other varied forms of entertainment. Trust me, when you are part of the spectacle's "producing/directing" team you get a new-found appreciation for how hard the kids worked to get up on stage.

Mama Madison: Preserving children's stories

My daughter, who turned twelve just this past week, is not legally "of age" when it comes to social media. But I guess, in many respects, especially in those that involve screens, I am a permissive pushover. I've allowed her join some networks.

Tenting tonight? Not so fast -- take the time to prepare for the first family camping trip

What adults love about camping -- sleeping under the stars, getting away from it all, the sounds of nature -- can be scary for children. It's dark in a tent. Nothing is familiar. Of course, camping with kids is more work for adults, too. Stay cool, live in the moment. Forget about that lost fork. Making s'mores, spotting wildlife, that's what kids will remember.

Mama Madison: It's time for the college tour

I have just returned from a whirlwind, five-day, four-city college tour with my son. You know those "101 Things to Know Before Visiting Disney World" guidebooks that experienced theme park travelers have written to help the uninitiated? I think I am now officially seasoned enough in information sessions and campus tours to give some serious thought to penning a similar "insiders guide" for the junior-year parent.

Mama Madison: When mom gets a new roomie

This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition.

Mama Madison: Earth Day awareness

It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.

Mama Madison: Parents should know and understand school codes of conduct

I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.


Emails from Isthmus Parents feature event highlights, story links, site updates, and occasional special offers from trusted sources. Name and email address are required. Thanks!