Trying to squeeze the most out of the last month of summer, we forced ourselves to leave the house, which is never an easy thing.
We went to a family day at a local art museum—something I’d never usually consider, because I hate crowds—because they had LARP.
Brief digression on LARPing.
I had never heard of LARPing until very recently. It stands for Live Action Role Play, and I guess it is what those people with homemade shields and capes over their tank tops and basketball shorts are doing when you drive past the city park on the weekend.
My 12yo is LARPing 24/7. Not with shields or capes. It is sort of a relief to know there is a word for it, though there are also words for things like “delusional” and “dissociation.” I have no idea what she’s doing, usually, but she and her closest friends inhabit a fantasy world that has them role playing in person, online, and generally every free moment of the day. Should I worry about this? Probably. But I don’t, yet, because hey, she’s 12. The Bronte kids made up another country and told stories to each other about it for years, and look how great they turned out. Right?
So we go, and I make up my mind on the way not to be a lame parent who stands around watching kids have all the fun. I made that decision because I often have been that lame parent, watching, participating from behind the camera.
“You go ahead, I’ll watch.”
So when we got to the sword-making table, I grabbed the stuff and made my own. I made a double-ended light saber ala Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace. (It is truly pathetic, but it is mine.) Eggmaster made an awesome axe. Violet made a ninja-style sword (apparently they don’t have a hilt), and Victoria made a lovely sword with ribbons hanging off it. We leapt around on the hill dueling while I sang the spooky Sith theme music, cheerfully whapping my kids with a giant foam tube wrapped in duct tape.
Victoria then decided she needed a shield.
(“I am a Jedi,” I said to them. “My shield is my mind.”
“I thought you were a Sith.”
“Oh right, same thing.”)
Sitting and waiting and waiting and waiting for her to finish her shield allowed me to look around at the other shield- and sword-makers in the tent. Right next to us was a woman pressing her design ideas and color choices on her son. Her son who looked to be 12 years old at a minimum. Behind her was a woman who had taken her son’s shield, with the very cool fiery top I had seen him force the volunteer with the box cutter to cut out of cardboard, and laboriously use black electrical tape to create a thin black line around the flames at the top. I didn’t see the kid—who clearly had his own ideas when he translated them to the shield cutter—anywhere.
I was reminded of Victoria’s recent first communion prep, when we were sent home with felt and a white banner and instructed to personalize it. I helped Victoria cut out the smaller shapes, but she chose what to put on there, and she put it on herself. (Oh, and I stitched them a little after the glue dried, just to be sure they didn’t fall off.)
Naturally when we went to church for the Mass, we saw banners that looked like they were running on battery packs: glittery, sequined, with tiny precision cut pieces of felt in lovely mosaics and perfect replicas of Times New Roman 14 pt font.
Whatever: maybe having a family member make a banner like that made the first communicant feel special and loved. Still, I kept an eye out for the ones that were obviously child-made and gave them an extra admiring smile.
And who knows: maybe all the parents in that LARPing tent had developmentally disabled children who can’t hold scissors. I won’t judge any of them—individually.
And I don’t want to criticize them for hovering or being impatient with their children’s obviously childish efforts. My thoughts were not “leave your kid alone!” They were, “I bet you really want to make your own.”
This is something that happens to adults.
“Aw, you go ride the carousel, I’ll watch and take pictures.”
“Go up and dance to the band, I’ll watch and take pictures.”
Take a ballet class, play an instrument, join a team, try fencing, make your first misshapen piece of pottery, act in a musical: you do it, I’ll put it on Facebook or in the scrapbook.
As a homeschooler there are even more temptations:
“Awesome! A Latin class! Latin is so cool!”
“Wow, let’s do a unit study on Asian countries and their cuisines!”
“Look at this great Teaching Company series on masterpieces of English Literature!!”
I can’t deny it: just as a benefit of parenting is having an opportunity to revisit the greatest hits of your childhood, a benefit of homeschooling is having an opportunity to learn a bunch more interesting stuff yourself.
When your kids are very little, however, they require a level of engagement and attention that doesn’t allow you to participate in the activity the same way they do. Their job is to participate; your job is to supervise. They show an interest; you facilitate their exploration of it. And it is fun, and wonderful, and life-enhancing for you to be the person who does stuff both for them and with them, but sometimes that pattern sticks. Low energy, high-intensity kids, busy days, and worn-out nights turn that pattern into a rut. The need to create, however, is strong, and channels itself where it can, even into a little kid’s LARPing accessories.
I can’t judge any of those shield-stealing, banner-making parents, because it’s a rut I’ve fallen into more than once, and probably will again. But once you’ve seen it, it keeps getting easier to sidestep it, especially because making your own turns out to be a lot more fun and a lot more satisfying. (Even if your husband does make fun of your light saber noises.)
Learn guitar, practice the piano, audition for a play, study art history, tap dance, write an essay: I’ll do it, you kids try to keep busy while I’m at it.