How not to be a circus jerk

Last night we took the fam to the circus. I have to preface this by saying this is not my favorite place to be in all the world. I have always pretty much held no love for the circus experience. And it’s not a liberal hippy animal rights issue. Screw the elephants. I’ve taken my kids to concerts and shows and sporting events. No where but the circus to they LINE the halls with so many grossly overpriced and unhealthy toy and junk food booths and then send guys up and down every aisle pushing their wares to kids. My hatred of the circus was born when my big kids were tiny and I was broke and saving up for the circus was a multi-year event so toys and concessions were a no-go.  I’ll never forget (or forgive) the jerky ringmaster who – when announcing intermission – told the kids to raise their hand if they wanted a toy and then send the toy peddlers around to each kid. Guess how many kids raised their hands? Go on, guess! It made every single parent in the stands into an asshole who had to tell their kids no or shell over the $25 for the crappy piece of junk plastic.

Fast forward 12 years – nothing has changed. Yesterday the peddler was the candy man who literally went down the aisle asking “Who wants some candy? Kids – do you want some candy?” Assholes.

So I don’t love the circus. I’d almost (ALMOST) rather go to a Wiggles concert.

But yesterday at the circus (that the littles enjoyed but which was definitely one of the lousier circuses we’ve seen) it struck me that it isn’t just the pros that are jerks. It’s the parents too.

So in case you are reading this and considering going to the circus and don’t want to be a douche, here’s your handy dandy reference guide:

1) First and foremost, do not take your child to the circus until they are at least 4 years old. At least. I get that you are excited to share childhood memories from when you were little (and by little I mean probably 10! Not 4. Because you wouldn’t even REMEMBER the circus at age 4 and probably your parents had the sense to wait to take you). But your toddler will be bored. And will, in turn, bug everyone relentlessly for the entire duration. If you are bringing an older child but the younger child is under 4 but old enough to be mobile, hire a sitter. For reals. Your older child will thank you. And if that isn’t possible, read the rest of this real closely. Then hire a sitter.

2) Do not let your child turn around and throw food at the people behind (or in front of) him.

3) Do not let your child kick the person in front of them in the head. Or any other body part. I get that there is VERY little leg room between rows and there just isn’t’ room for a squirmy toddler on a parent’s lap which is ALL THE MORE REASON you should wait until your child is old enough for their own seat.

4) Do not let your child kick the SEAT of the person in front of them. Yes, they can feel it. It is incredibly annoying.

5) Resist all urges, tantrums and threats that will result in the purchase of a sword or light wand prior to the end of the show. I mean it. No one wants to hear the noises those things make two inches from their ears – ESPECIALLY ME. No one wants to be repeatedly smashed or bashed in the head by your kid’s new weapon – ESPECIALLY ME. And probably you did not pay money to spend the entire show policing your kid and repeatedly threatening to take away their new weapon if they don’t stop using it as a weapon.

6) Feed your kids before you come to the circus. Like RIGHT before. You can’t bring in your own food or drink and you will be inundated with pure sugar (hello $12 bags of spun sugar, s’mores “Pops”, lemonade and shaved ice). If you are going to cave (and you will probably cave), at least don’t bring them starving so that ALL they have in their system by intermission is sugar. Everyone around you will thank you and you, in turn, will thank me.

7) Leave your ipad at home. Seriously you do not need to hold that stupid thing over your head to get video footage of the entire circus. Your kid – who is too bored and young to enjoy it live – is not going to sit at home watching clips on the ipad. Hell, even if they LOVED the circus, they probably won’t watch your crappy ipad clips. But then, maybe you can email the footage to the people behind you who didn’t get to see the circus because you blocked their view of the entire show!

8) When the show is over, leave. You know what the grand finale signifies. The end. Enjoy it, by all means, but then get your crap and stand up and leave. And if you just had too much fun to budge, at least notice that you are blocking an entire family of people who are stuck in the middle of your row, standing, staring you down, unable to exit the venue because you are busy waiting for…??? If there is some secret encore presentation we are not aware of at LEAST have the common courtesy to step into the aisle to let us out so we can get the hell away from your terrorizing sweetie pie.

9) Of course you’ll want to capture a photograph of little Johnny’s complete boredom or sugar-induced tantrum or the look of pure terror on the face of the stranger next to your kid who is dodging your child’s glowing spiraling noise-making wand. But when you are walking OUT of the circus please – for the love of all that is holy – do not stop in the middle of the madhouse of people – for a family photo opp! First of all, the windows with bars on them that line the people-packed corridor leading you out of the event venue do not make a beautiful backdrop. You couldn’t wait 10 minutes until you were outside maybe? Or find one of the actual literal backdrops offered throughout the venue for an appropriate photo? But second of all, we all just want to leave. The last thing the 5000 people behind you want to do is to STOP moving forward so no one walks in front of your family during your photo opp.

10) When you leave, expect traffic. Yes your too-tiny-to-be-at-the-circus child will be overtired from missing his nap, overstimulated, sugar-crashing and pissed off that you just took away his sword after he finally hit YOU with it so he will NOT want to be strapped in a car seat (assuming, of course, that you even use a car seat since your sense of child appropriateness is clearly lacking) sitting at a standstill in an insanely busy parking lot. He will cry. He will scream. And guess what – that is not anyone else’s problem. You do not get to drive ahead of everyone or cut other people off because your kid is sick of sitting in traffic. Or because YOU are sick of sitting in traffic. Or because you are sick of your own kids and just want to get home! Have some patience and some courtesy and, in trade, I MIGHT have some compassion (more for your poor kid than you). But remember: you are entitled to nothing so stop acting like it.

These are all actual bona fide experiences I had either last night or in circuses past. Serious. One time I think there was even an almost-fist-fight between me and a stranger but I may have blocked that out. 

And to prove I am not a party pooper, we had a lovely time all the Disney Ice shows we’ve seen, at the Imagination Movers Live show, at the Harlem Globetrotters show, at every professional basketball and baseball game we’ve been to. I don’t know what it is about the circus that turns otherwise rational adults into raving jerks but please, so that those of us whose kids DO derive some small amount of pleasure from the show can continue to bring them to the circus – stay home or shape up. Thank you.

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