When you think of things to do to entertain a child many things pop up: swimming, cartoons, puzzles, Thomas the Train, ice cream, etc. However, I also think about my childhood which consisted of playing with my brothers pretending to be The Dukes of Hazard and The A-Team. I think about how much fun playing along with them was and that I really truly believed that my brothers were Faceman, Hannibal, and Howling Mad Murdock for that hour (or hours) we ran around playing and somehow not getting “shot” at anytime during the very violent (pretend) fight scenes. (Amazingly the same was true for the A-Team themselves). My dad really didn’t appreciate us trying to slide across the hood of the car like the Duke Boys, but that didn’t slow us down.
These imagination-filled days really stick out in my memory growing up, and nowadays I feel that children’s play and especially the shows that inspire play are a little too bland (or if they are watching non-children shows they are at the other end of the spectrum and too violent). An A-Team episode most of the time was filled with explosions and the Dukes never let a day go by without jumping the General Lee. Now children’s TV shows focus on resolving conflict in much different ways and adult’s TV shows resolve conflict in horrible ways. OK will come back to this in a minute.
Well when I decided that I was going to go to DragonCon for the first time in August I also decided that I would regret not taking my four year old son (he will be a few days over five by the time the event rolls around). True it’s not a “normal” child event. If I was going to Disney or to a Braves game one would probably be shocked if my first thoughts weren’t “my son needs to go too!” However, many DragonCon attendees probably aren’t thinking about how awesome it would be to take a five year old.
What’s DragonCon you say? It, simply stated is a nerd convention. If you are a Phineas and Ferb fan think “Nerds of a Feather.” Otherwise imagine a bunch of adults that get together and nerd out on an embarrassing level. These people are serious and spend hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars on fantastic costumes. The more authentic the better. So imagine taking a five year old to see Superman, Batman, Iron Man and every other super hero ever thought of all meeting in one place. I mean come on! How can he miss seeing this guy??
How awesome is that? And Langley is still young enough to think this is the REAL Iron Man. Heck, even I’m not convinced that Tony Stark isn’t really in there.
Soon after I decided to take him I got a private Facebook message from a friend that goes every year and takes her daughter who is a little younger than my boy. She pointed out to me that not everyone’s costume is child appropriate. That right beside Superman there would also be Wonder Woman in the skimpiest costume imaginable and that is a tame example. There will also be women there in a little more than nothing. Here is an example of what she was talking about:
Keep in mind that is the TAME version. Feel free to Google DragonCon images if you want to see the more extreme versions. My friend is a midwife so her daughter has seen a live birth more than once, plus a girl seeing mostly naked women is a little different than a boy seeing the same.
So here was my quandary: Should I take a child to an event that for the most parts would be a dream come true for a small boy, but there would also be things there that would be very inappropriate for a child?
My decision: He is going. We are bringing every costume he owns plus his Doctor Who outfit and we are going to have fun with it! I do plan on prepping him with a few quite conversations about how some people might be there behaving in ways that are not good, but that just because someone else is behaving badly doesn’t mean that it’s OK for us to do the same. I will also talk to him about if he has a question about how someone is dressed that he should ask me quietly. I can’t promise someone won’t get a “Hey Mama, I see her booby!” yelled at them, but hopefully we can avoid these outbursts.
I feel that he’s at an age now that he might be amazed with the very strange outfits, but five is safer than fifteen with this. At least I hope. There is a chance I am stressing out about this and it will be a non issue, or that I will get there and find out that it was a really bad mistake to bring him. If that’s the case I do have a sister-in-law that can take care of him while I get my nerd on, but I will be really sad if he doesn’t get to enjoy this event with me.
I don’t think it’s OK to expose your children to everything, but also feel that if he lives in a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse bubble until he gets to school I would have failed him in the other end of that spectrum. I want to have a well balance child that can see things that aren’t acceptable and understand that he doesn’t have to go along with them just because others are. Simple right?
So back to the Duke boys and the A-Team. I see that as an early form of cosplay that I shared with my brothers. It was a step outside of reality. We really were saving the day. I might be too old to slide across the hood of my car, but maybe at DragonCon I can step outside reality again with my son. Yes there will be some off the wall people there, but I sincerely hope that what he takes away from this experience is an increased imagination.
Arielle is a mother of two making sure that her children grow up to be well balanced nerds. You can follow her nerd-developing progress on her blog, My Nerd Obsessions.