Run away and join the circus

Thirty seconds into watching a grown man wearing a bedazzled leotard juggle a coffee table with his feet and my middle son decided that geology wasn’t the path for him, he was destined to join the circus.

There is no more finely tuned money trap in existence than the traveling circus. Soda pop, four dollars. Snow cone, six dollars. Inflatable unicorn on a stick, twelve dollars. Watching your children realize that the elephant they are riding is currently pooping into a trashcan being held by a man with a top hat, priceless.

Honestly it was well worth the money, if for no other reason than attending the circus as a child is a necessary part of growing up. It’s different from anything else because the mystery is brought right to your home town. What was once just the dusty old fair grounds is suddenly transformed into a fantastical display of acrobatic wonder, balanced with just the right amount of humor and danger.

I was hesitant to let my kids ride the elephant at first because it was ten dollars each and we’d already been expertly separated from our dollars just getting into the tent with a few snacks. I suggested to my son that we save our money for something else when he hit me with a strategically, ingenious argument.

“But dad,” he said, “It’s freakin elephants!”

He had me there. It’s just not every day that you get to ride a freakin elephant.

I wish I could say that they were all awestruck to the point of mesmerized, still sitting, amazement. Unfortunately it will take more than trapeze artists risking their lives on silk curtains to make my youngest son sit still for longer than five seconds. To the lady sitting in front of us that is no doubt covered in tiny red, snow cone syrup hand prints from every time my son escaped my grasp; I’m sorry.

We almost left the show early because each of our children was complaining about needing to use the bathroom. There was, of course a public restroom option but it was a mobile unit that looked like something out a 1970’s horror film. As we were discussing it however they wheeled out a piece of acrobatic equipment that looked especially dangerous.

The spot light flashed on a man scaling the device which rose some forty feet in the air. Drums were pounding and suddenly there were women dressed in brightly colored feathers dancing on the ground below. At the top of the structure was a circular platform where the man would stand within and make the thing spin around and around. You know the thing I’m talking about right? Well suddenly my kids didn’t need to pee. They were all eyes for the crazy man spinning around the giant playground toy.

My three year old asked if he could ride it too. I told him no.

The man did an amazing job of making it look as if he was close to failure the whole time but of course that’s part of what it takes to be good at his job. There were lots of oohs and aahs followed by an uproarious applause when he was finished. The dancing girls came back out and started singing a song about how the show was over. We had intentionally grabbed seats near the exit and so we left during their song, knowing that the fun stuff was over.

Parent pro tip: Always beat the traffic going home.

As we drove away I asked my middle son if he was still interested in joining the circus.

“Heck yeah I am!” he enthusiastically replied.

“Well that’s fine.” I told him. “But just remember that life is about starting at the bottom and working your way up, even in the circus.”

“Well what does that mean?” he asked.

So I handed him my phone and showed him the picture I took of the guy holding the trashcan for the elephant to poop in.

The circus was lots of fun. And my son still wants to be a geologist.