There are a lot of things you never want to expose your children to; radiation, the last episode of Lost, and naked people. I mean, come on, you only need to see a handful of naked people to realize, sheesh, the movie industry must use a lot of make up and prosthetics to make it look that good. Next on my list is run down carnivals in dying Midwestern towns. Every summer come July, the month that most resembles Hell in the Midwest, my children scratch and paw the windows of the mini van like, well, children in a mini van, every time we drive by “Galena Days”.
The first time my wife and I went to “Galena Days” we didn’t have any children and therefore felt freer to risk our lives riding the decrepit machines. The brightly colored rides played music that sounded like cats having sex and many of the people running this traveling circus appeared visibly high to me. More disturbingly, many of the people operating the rides appeared to be happy, way too happy, to be doing what they were doing. There is no way a person could smile as much as they did while operating the merry-go-round stone cold sober. No way.
“Galena Days” proved to be an eye opening, gut emptying experience. Growing up I ate my share of deep fried foods like fish sticks and corn dogs. But, I had no idea of the creative depths the Midwest was bringing to the culinary table. I had heard the jokes about how people around here would deep fry anything and eat it: road kill, turtles, and the like. Here, though, I was confronted with the ugly truth. Deep fried pickles, Oreos, Snickers Bars, cheese cake, and pancake batter were some of the morsels to be found. Deep fried cheese cake! My chest tightens at the thought. The size of the corn dogs would have made a horse blush. The combination of the heat, the oil, and the absent stares made for a gastro intestinally unsettling day. I knew then and there I would use all of my super human dad powers to avoid bringing my offspring to such an event.
Events like these are easy to avoid with the proper amount of parental bribery. Other parts of the culture that surrounds us are not events I want my kids to avoid but lifestyles, or more specifically, buffets. Buffets are like 70’s porn; wet, cheesy, and soft featuring people with horrible hairdos. Buffets are endemic here as are the appetites to match. Awhile ago walking through the grocery store my then four year old daughter saw an enormous man; not only was he tall but he was obese. Very obese. As we walked right by him she asked in an unmitigated four year old decibel level, “Why is that man so fat!”. My two year old boy in the cart seat repeats “fat!” with enthusiasm leaving no doubt, if there ever was any, as to who and what we were talking about. I smiled at the man and quickly turned the corner figuring I could outrun him if I needed to. He walked on graciously without commenting on the socialization, or lack thereof, of my young children.
I can’t protect my children from everything and really, I don’t want to. Growing up where we have chosen to raise them presents itself with certain difficulties, as does any area in which you choose to live. Some of these we can avoid and some of them create awkward, but teachable moments for us all. It is not in their best interest to put them on a portable Ferris wheel run by people who look like they don’t know where they are. But it is in their best interest, and in the interest of my personal safety, to be curious about the people around them in a way that is respectful. I am hoping to help them realize that it does make a difference to avoid certain heart stopping foods as much as it helps to lower your voice out of respect for others. Little by little they seem to understand, although July continues to necessitate the most creative bribes.
Well, somebody is calling for their father…