As you may have read in recent updates, babies are decimating our numbers. Our members joke about “just making future members” but the fact is that childcare is paramount and given the choice between practice and show, members (wisely) choose being with their kids.
We are not without sympathy to this and we occasionally have our Godkids with us, and for the first time we had them on a working day under our supervision. Renfaires are a much more forgiving place for “bring your child to work” but even this can be both lovely and problematic.
One friend forbid another friend from dating what he referred to as “renrats” or what is often a moniker for kids raised at renaissance faires. (Long story, another post) These kids often are pretty tolerant of a wide variety of people, have some odd speech tics and because they are raised in what is considered an alternate lifestyle by many, just don’t give a fig for more conventional social mores. I’ve met some great “renrats” and have met some awful ones and we’ll talk about both examples.
It takes a village to raise a child but only one child to raze a village.
Although kids can generally roam free at faires pretty safely, the other denizens shouldn’t be raising your kids. At the last faire, we had packs of roaming kids that would ask questions, hang out with us and we would hang out with them as well. They were polite and adorable and because it was a small faire generally a look up and couple of steps would let any parental figure do instant reconnaissance. Most ren kids know that if they need food or water, most folks at a faire would give it to them and because it IS a small community, if anyone did harm, the community would be on them like scarab beetles on a corpse. I’m not saying that the community is immune to all the plagues of the real world, but if I had to pick a place to have kids explore and have some autonomy, that would be the place I would do it. But they should have some rules. These are my observations
Politeness-same as any setting-please and thank you are important as is understanding that it is polite to ask before grabbing anything. Most ren kids have better sword handling etiquette than visiting adults. I say MOST because some, raised around it, just assume everyone knows that they know enough to be safe. Not the case. Because the community is so tolerant, sometimes the kids forget that they are not, in fact, little adults.
I am not the most maternal of persons but generally if I see a child doing something potentially hazardous I’ll intervene. If I see a kid swinging like an orangutan on a maypole or rocking a set of stocks, I will be sure to say something to the child, 2) say something to the parents 3) call security knowing I did due diligence. I generally won’t touch children unless it’s a “walking on to the highway” situation. And yeah, I will scoop up your toddler if they head into a fight ring during a show because I’m a jerk like that and you aren’t on my insurance as anything but “hazard.”
Not my problem:
I see plenty of kids and situations that will mix in a not great but certainly non-fatal way. I can’t speak for anyone else but if I see a running child who is not looking vs vendor with strangely placed racks, I might shout-out but frankly, unless I’m a superhero, it’s going to happen. I might help clean the resulting debris and make sympathetic noises but at the end of the day, I’m going to go home and chuckle about a lesson learned and what a kid covered with pots of glitter looked like and will look like for years later. (Glitter, it’s a plague)
Finding the owner: This is a bad example. We did a faire where I kept finding a fairly rude little girl in our tent. Our folks are nice and kept an eye on her but we had shows to do and had to boot her several times. We figured out that she belonged to a couple running gaming booths behind us and we’d push her in that direction. Eventually she went up to the right person. He was an older gentleman and said
“Young lady, you come with me.” And she did-right to the on-duty cop. When escorted her back to her parents, they started to berate her and the police had to correct them, it was not the *child’s* fault that she had the opportunity to wander off with a stranger. There are bigger endemic issues when strangers feel obligated to act on behalf of your kids and are better caretakers. (I qualify that because lots of people have opinions, it doesn’t make them right.)
Warn people: We warned both our Godkids and troupe members that there would be eyeballs in both directions. We did not expect them to take care of our charges but if they thought they needed water or were being rude, they were qualified to say something and act if necessary. And the troupe members were asked to muffle the f-bombs, and inappropriate jokes, which was a good idea anyway.
Their stuff-I have seen firsthand how a well-meaning parent will bring what I call “The Collection” that is, everything modern society has told us we need to care for children. It’s one thing to bring activities but when we start to talk about multiple strollers, play areas and enough food to feed the mercenary troupe, well, it can be problematic. Ordinarily it’s not an issue because faires are open spaces but if you have paid for a vendor spot or are trying for authenticity, it can put a damper on things. And there are ways around it, one group I know is creating historical “child minders” or another dedicates a “kid tent” behind the others where all of the accoutrements can be stashed but available.
Our stuff: Swords and fire, it’s right on our sign and business card. Has this stopped parents from berating us? No, but it gets a good laugh after the festival. Our swords are in a rack in the tent, or we allow children (with a parent) to ask politely. I have nudged a dog with my foot, the alternative was setting it on fire, I think the owner understood. I have yet to apply it to children but then, in those cases I was the spotter and treated them to a spritzer bottle-works with cats too.
The summary: You can let your kids run at a renfaire, but if you aren’t responsible, don’t count on us to be, we’re at work.