FestivALL.  Mountain Stage.  Live on the Levee.  WV Power Baseball.  Art Walk.  First Friday. The Greenbrier Classic.  Symphony Sunday.  Birthday parties.  Boat outings.  Campfires. Dinner parties. Live music. Space operas. Theatre.  Blockbuster films. New restaurant openings. Work functions. Poetry slams.  The Red Party.


So much to see, so much to do, so little time to do it!  But, I have one question: Can I bring the kids?

Fish being social at FestivALL

I am a social creature; I have a lot of friends and varied interests, so I’m never at a loss for something to do.  But, I’m also a single mom and I need to be sure that most of the invitations I accept are kid-friendly.  (Which, I’d like to point out to the kids out there, is not the same as “kid-centric”.  We’re not going to Chuck E. Cheese every week: get over it.)

Usually, deciding whether a function is appropriate for children is an easy call to make.  Library Street Fair?  Kid-friendly.  Hangover 2?  Not so much.  But, occasionally, making a decision about bringing the kids along requires a more nuanced approach.  I try to look at the big picture and make my choice based on the wants and needs of each participant: the host/organization, the kids, and me.

I ask myself who’s hosting the function; what’s going to be happening; how long will it last; and, will there be drunken jacklegs in attendance?  Those are important things to know.

If it’s a private event, I pretty much assume that children are not invited unless the host or hostess asks me to bring them.  I have some friends who I can always rely on to be right out of the gate with, “Bring the kids; they’ll have a blast!”  I have others who throw it in sort of begrudgingly, and still others who make it clear that children really aren’t their thing.  I appreciate all of them, but especially the friends who are unequivocally “yea” or “nay”.  I’m not much on decision-making so the more clear people are with me about things, the better.  The same thing applies with public events: I totally appreciate an advertisement or invitation that clearly indicates whether children are welcome or not.

I also try to think of things from the kids’ point of view.  Is the content of the activity oriented to adults?  Is there anything about the event that will make it fun for the kids? Will my children resent me for making them endure the New Song Contest Finals (yes); Art Walk (yes); or the Easter egg hunt at Magic Island (no, but I resent them for it, so we’re even).  If the function in question doesn’t have music or sound loud enough to drown out their incessant whining about being bored, it’s probably not worth the effort of going.  (Although, here’s where I start to wax philosophical about acquired tastes and exposure to the arts being good for kids and all that.  I mean, sure they’re going to choose Putt-Putt and pizza over opera and osso bucco every time, but does that mean they don’t have room for both?  But maybe that’s a whole separate post…)

Anyway, after considering the kids and how they might feel about tagging along with me, and, after thinking about the event organizers and fellow invitees and how they might feel about children hanging around, I try to stop and honor my own feelings.  How badly do I want to attend?  Will I be feeding my soul by participating?  Is this function important to me?  And, most importantly- if I do go- what will I wear?

Maintaining an active social life and being a fully-engaged parent requires balance, but I believe it can be done.  My ex-husband liked to complain that I was “too social” and cared “too much about my friends”.  But, I mean… it takes a village, right?  So, when I still can’t decide whether or not to take the kids with me to an event, I simply do what any other socially-connected parent would do: put it to a vote on Facebook!

Karan Ellison Ireland wants to know if she should take her kids to the Fishbowl poetry thing at Bluegrass Kitchen on Sunday.


(This blog was originally published on the Charleston Daily Mail’s Mommyhood blog.)


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