We took the kids to a carnival of sorts last weekend. It was nothing huge, but I thought it would be pretty exciting for them. When we arrived, I was underwhelmed. There was popcorn and hot dogs and a little cotton candy machine. There was an inflatable slide and ski-ball. There were a few games and a few people in Star Wars costumes. We spent a few hours there and had a fine time, but it was nothing amazing.
It would be easy to fall back into the old-guy attitude of, “Things were so much more amazing when I was a kid”, or, “Kids these days are so spoiled, nothing is special anymore.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the Carnival wasn’t all that amazing simply because every day is so amazing for my kids. We’ve been to numerous backyard birthday parties or get-togethers for no special occasion at all where the hosts have rented giant bounce castles, slides, or water playthings. Cotton candy can be purchased cheaply almost anywhere. My kids love these things no less than I did as a kid, they just have the ability to enjoy them more often and on their own terms, not only after waiting in long lines and being crammed in with sweaty strangers.
It’s pretty amazing that it doesn’t require a monumental feat of organization, fundraising, ticket sales, and planning to have a once a year event with cool stuff for the kids. I appreciate this even more as I watch my kids have those nervous moments of indecision about whether or not to hazard the giant water slide. If they chicken out, they don’t have to spend possibly years regretting that they missed that one opportunity, as I had done in similar situations as a kid. They can take their time, and if they regret the decision not to give it a try, they’ll likely have a next time soon. They probably make better decisions because of the everyday availability of carnival trappings – I remember feeling sick almost every time I pounded giant wads of cotton candy or elephant ears with all the pent-up demand of an inmate on holiday.
I could be bitter at the fact that, in many ways, my kids have it better than I did, and therefor they don’t seem as excited about stuff I loved. But why? Who cares? I decided to enjoy the fact that I don’t have to run out and attend every fair, because my kids have a lot more options than I did. Yeah, sometimes it hurts that they don’t lavish me with praise for getting them a pack of Big League Chew or a corn-dog, but that’s my problem, not theirs. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them, it means I’m too sensitive and doing stuff more for me than them. They’ll probably never realize how awesome their world is compared to the past, but none of us really can. Let’s enjoy the present regardless!