This may sound crazy but in my six and a half years of teaching, I just attended my first fun fair. For the first six years the schools where I worked did not have the means or the resources to be able to host one. I had no idea what to expect and no idea what my two boys, Liam, 5, and Ben, 3, would do as I pushed them past their bedtime into a new environment teeming with unfamiliar children and adults who knew each other and their dad, but not them.
At first the night was slow, some Bozo buckets here and a bowling game there. We would enter a room, the boys would join the line, then I would take a stance against one wall or desk around the room. As I stood there with some parents whom I did not know, it was awkward. A bunch of adults watching their own child while also standing in uncomfortable silence as the they watched a few unknown children bumble their way through a ring toss or Frisbee throw. But as more and more people came in and the tickets for prizes started flowing, laughter, big smiles, and wild abandon began to seep into my boys. The whole school,in fact, became one thriving, jiving community with high fives and pats on the backs and “Hey, how are you?’s.” Now this was what I remembered about school fun fairs.
At one point Ben, my hairless monkey, had run off in the gymnasium. I wasn’t panicked or worried but knowing how fast he can get himself lost and scared caused me to begin looking in a slightly frenetic manner. But there he was in front of the cotton candy machine. Little pink wisps flying in the air like jellyfish around his head. He looked up, mouth slightly open, with eyes so round and wide with fascination. I wanted the moment to last forever…and to be accompanied by a Danny Elfman score. He turned around and looked at me as if he assumed I had been there the whole time and said in a tender tone, “Daddy!”
Later, after we made our way through temporary tatoos and some more games, we made it to the crown jewel of fun fairs…the coveted cake walk. As we entered a bunch of my students and their friends also had arrived and were in line to play. Now, my boys had done a cake walk at their pre-school before but the school is much smaller and every kid would win and win quickly. But this was something different. There were big kids and long lines and new rules and…big kids… I watched in anxious anticipation as both my boys did a great job walking around the circle keeping up with and dodging the antics of the eleven year-olds. The music stopped.
Everyone turned and looked and cheered. But the one boy who needed to know hadn’t even looked down yet.
“Liam,” I said, “look at your number.” As he stepped off the number and the realization spread to his smile, I couldn’t help but realize that this night was not about games, toys, or even cakes (he went on to pick a family-sized pack of double stuffed Oreos by the way), but instead the smallest moments of joy that we can witness in our child.
The rest of the night went by in a flash and concluded with my boys skipping out of the doors like they had just left the best party of their life. The fun fair had lived up to everything I had remembered as a kid, but with one new twist. As with most of my kids’ firsts, I came to appreciate more how much my own parents and teachers did to create these childhood moments.
“Daddy, I love you,” Ben mused as I buckled him into to his car seat.
“I love you, too, Daddy,” Liam chimed.