Father’s Day 2012: The Colorado Renaissance Festival

I find it amusing that both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, theoretically¬† holidays celebrating our parenthood, are usually ruined by our children. I think Father’s Day this year was one of the worst days of the year for our family. Foolishly, we decided to take our 5 1/2 year old and our 8 month old to the Renaissance Festival, a trip we make nearly every year and usually end up regretting for one reason or another. After nearly an hour of preparation, which involved a frantic search of the home and cluttered minivan for misplaced necessary items, peppered with a good deal of profanity, we set off.

Our Toyota Sienna was crammed with electronic entertainment options and childcare supplies, including 4 different types of sunscreen. Our oldest daughter had arranged her activities carefully around her in her carseat: art supplies, portable DVD player and discs, Leapster and games, and pink headphones so as not to irritate her travel companions. When I remind Izzy during a complaint-filled five minute car ride that Mommy and Uncle Brian had nothing to amuse themselves in the car aside from looking out the window, I am rewarded with a blank stare.

I think if Izzy had her choice of activities every day, she would select coloring in front of the TV for 12 straight hours. Riding in the car while watching a movie was a close second. Our sensitive girl is a bit of a homebody, and her list of phobias is rather diverse, including less traditional childhood fears such as wind, wild birds of any kind, mascots, and loud movie theaters, as well as more obvious choices such as thunder and clowns.

When we arrived at the Renaissance Festival, we were first greeted by a host of characters waving down at us from the high-walled entryway. Unfortunately included in this assortment was a painted court jester.  Strike one. Upon wandering through the gates, we encountered a strange looking buffalo-headed beast of some sort. Strike two: panic ensued. I carried my 42 pound child, clinging to me with fear, away from the monster and in search of an appropriate diversion or treat.

For the next hour and a half, we zoomed through the park, ticking off attractions as though we were participants in an un-fun family scavenger hunt. A whirlwind of eating and overpriced rides ensused: Fried green beans- check! Scotch egg- check! Elephant ride, pony ride, hand-pushed butterfly carriage ride, check! We raced through the petting zoo, scarfing food and enduring whiny protests from Izzy. “How many more minutes will we be here? When can we have ice cream and leave? What if it gets windy? What if we see the dragon? What if there’s a parade?” With steely determination, we dragged our fretting five year old and happy, oblivious infant in search of Italian ice, ignoring Izzy’s outbursts if we happened to encounter a stage show that had a too-loudly cheering audience.

Shortly after donning her $14 princess hat, it fell to the ground unnoticed; we had neither the time nor the inclination to spend another minute at the festival to search for it. The parade, with its booming drums and cast of strange creatures put us over the edge. With Izzy sobbing, we gritted our teeth and plowed towards the exit. I stopped to grab a cheesecake on a stick to eat in the car, so as not to write off the experience as a total waste. Once safely inside the shuttle to the parking lot, Izzy turned to me beaming. “Wasn’t that fun?” she chirped. I looked at her incredulously, recognizing her innate need to make things right and ensure she hadn’t fallen out of favor with us.

A little family quiet rest time would have been just the balm for our irritation and exhaustion, but of course it was not to be. The baby refused to go down for nap, leaving my husband and I slumped on the couch in frustration while our daughter watched some inane movie rip-off on the Disney channel and our baby blissfully attempted to eat last week’s snack crumbs off the carpet.

2 meltdowns, 3 injuries, and 1 fantastic diaper blow out later, we wearily attempted to salvage our holiday with dinner at our favorite restaurant. The universe rewarded us with a relatively harmonious meal,including a glass of wine for me and two beers for the guest of honor. We smiled as our baby babbled and cooed and our sweet daughter made friends with a nearby child. We actually ate every bite of our meals, unheard of when dining with our children, and basked in a few moments of calm.

But seriously, let’s be real. If Mother’s Day was all about me, I would start with a yoga class, spend a few hours at the dayspa, fit in some reading at Starbucks, and eat Chinese food alone on the couch while watching a movie with lots of swearing and sex. I’m sure my hubby’s Father’s Day activities would include some serious vegging and viewing a marathon of TV programs about pawn shops and people’s vehicles being repossessed. Actually, my husband would never agree to a day like that. As much as I try to project my own selfishness and lack of patience onto him, he is a generous, giving father who would never dream of celebrating his day without his short-fused wife, shit-leaking baby, or anxiety-prone daughter. And I love him for that.

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