Wednesday, June 19, 2013

modern medieval family : why we include our children

Since making the decision to ease up on dragging all the kids to every event, we've rediscovered that events can actually be fun. As the kids get older, and they get more comfortable with the different rules that exist at events, the process of having young children at events with us has become easier. Certainly not without issues still, since they still tend to get over-tired (Napping at an event? What a ludicrous idea!), and there are still rules they do not understand (What do you mean we can't walk between that group of fighters and those combat archers?!)
Watching my kids become acclimated to the event environment has made me think more about why involving the kids is so important to me. Obviously, a hobby like ours requires a fair amount of "you're doing this because we're doing this", but the gut feeling that I have that my children need to actually grow up in the SCA goes well beyond that. And I think most parents who do any type of historical recreation with their kids tend to feel the same way.

One the one hand, we could easily chalk it up to our deep-seated desire to validate our hobby, because- let's all be honest with each other- historical recreation is not a mainstream extracurricular activity. We look to our children as our first-line of approval and acceptance. If they participate, and enjoy participating, then it must be acceptable. We do this with our children in so many ways in modern contexts. Asking our 1 year old to pick one of two toys that we'd like to have in the house. Letting them choose a night-time story from the library we've culled together for them. Asking them to come and have fun at an all-day event that we want to go to. And as long as they think it's their idea, we're golden.

When I try to identify this behavior in our family in terms of the SCA, I recognize that I get flutters in my chest when my son returns from an event and doesn't want to get out of garb. Or when I pull the garb pile out before an event to double check fit, the kids go wild with excitement. They like it- they really like it! Which is, of course, my own perception, and not scientifically verifiable, but it makes including the kids in our hobby justifiable on a very personal level.

On the other hand, we can't overlook that involvement in organized recreation societies is a valuable teaching tool. I've talked here before about applying "eco-medieval" principles in our modern lives- using the lessons of stewardship and sustainability that the Middle Ages provides to teach our children to take better care of their possessions, the environment and one another. The medieval world itself offers many more lessons. But also, and more to my point, medieval recreation teaches a whole different set of lessons.

A child of 2 doesn't understand the role of an autocrat, or the business aspects that our monthly meetings handle, but they can recognize that groups like the SCA involve a huge number of people. They can observe that the environment at an event is different from home, the grocery store, preschool and the park. And the more of these things that they see, the larger their world becomes. The more comfortable they are within this larger world, the more they will question and explore. And the ultimate conclusion to that process is that they will know more. Which is absolutely a good thing.

Recreation also teaches subtle things to our children. It teaches them about finding their own niche. It teaches them about adjusting to new schedules and rules quickly. It teaches them about chivalry, courtesy, and due praise. It also teaches them about disappointment, and when they are old enough to participate in marshalled activities, it teaches them about grace and civility, win or lose.

I often daydream about when my kids are adults. Will one of them win Crown Tourney someday? Will my son become a Pelican? Will my daughter become a Knight? How will others know and treat my gang of four when they come to events? The most important question about my imagined adult children, however, is the one I won't be able to predict. Will they like it?

As much as I want that answer to be yes, the best we can do now is empower them to learn what they can and make up their own minds when they feel they need to. Which I'm hoping won't be until they've all moved out.