the day the circus came to town

Friday, I took our three children to the circus.

I’ll preface that with I’m not a big fan of the circus. Mainly because:

  • I have a life-long fear/hatred of clowns
  • I read Water for Elephants three years ago and think the circus is weird and cruel
  • We just aren’t “circus” people

However, at ages seven, nine and eleven, I figured that if my kids were ever going to see the circus, the window of time that they’d enjoy it was quickly closing. That, and our public library was giving away student tickets for a reading reward. I only had to buy my ticket so for $26 we had a fairly in-expensive, low-risk introduction to The Greatest Show on Earth.

In my true-to-form, over-the-top, let’s-make-everything-a-learning-experience, I did a little laying of the foundation for the history of the circus. I do believe I scared my kids about seeing the bearded lady and other human rarities before we even set foot in the door.


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For the greater part of the show, our children, whose sensibilities and sensitivities are much like their parents, Thomas, Mae and Kate each sat motionless, with varying degrees of hands covering ears and hands covering eyes.

Unlike many of the other parents, I did not spend a portion of their college funds to purchase light-em-up, twirly-ma-bobs or eighteen dollar lemonades in souvenir cups. We split a $10 bag of popcorn and watched in amazement.

photo 1

It was during this time of looking around, and people-watching that I realized that I may be the least fun mom of all time. I’ll admit, I texted my friend in a nearby section admitting that I was anxious and nervous for these people performing these death-defying antics.

photo 2

And what did I do but begin thinking about what life must be like for these “carnies” and “roadies” and how although SO NOT my forte’ what these performers do is nothing short of amazing. It takes a certain kind of dedication, courage and ability to move one’s body in all sorts of contortionist ways or risk serious injury being assaulted by an elephant or horse.

photo 3

I also began to imagine how many of these performers got here. What choices in life put them on a path to be capable and interested in joining the circus? Being in the circus isn’t just a job. It must be a passion or calling for these people. And who am I to decide what constitutes a “noble” career or calling. Just because I choose not to wear sequins or top hats or don’t have the physical capacity to dangle from a wire, doesn’t give me the right to sit in judgment.

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And just because these people travel all over performing for crowds of toddlers and elementary school students, doesn’t mean they don’t lead (somewhat) normal lives outside of work. They, like me, more than likely wear more than one hat.

My mom hat says, “Kids:

  • never hold a balloon in your mouth and let someone shoot his crossbow, with an arrow aimed toward your face. Same is true for a rose. Or an apple.
  • never volunteer to be blindfolded while someone plans to prank you or your private parts.
  • never, ever stand on a moving horse. And for goodness sakes, never do a flip off of a moving horse.
  • never try to dunk a basketball from a moving unicycle. It’s dangerous on so many levels.
  • and please, please NEVER get on a motorcycle, but if you do, please don’t ride it across a high wire or pile into a metal cage with others on motorcycles…that’s an accident just waiting to happen

But my dreamer hat says, “All you circus performers:

  • kudos to you for chasing your dreams
  • bravo for all of the times you have fallen down or fallen over or fallen off and gotten back up again; that takes mad courage, heart and determination
  • cheers to you for being in amazing physical shape, that takes real commitment
  • hurrah for having a “day job” that literally makes people gasp and cheer and laugh


I am pretty sure we won’t be going back to a circus anytime soon. Our kids admitted that they did have fun. I had fun too. This was an experience we won’t soon forget.

“Life is the most spectacular show on earth ♥”
― Sara GruenWater for Elephants

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