YAOYO: You're only young once.
But you can always be a Pug.
There is a yearly summer event in our Brooklyn neighborhood called the Giglio Feast in honor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The celebration hails from a small town in Italy where most of the area's original inhabitant emigrated from. (Now they have been replaced by hipsters with parents wealthy enough to cosign their condominium mortgages.)
The Feast includes engaging cultural elements like an enormous saint-encrusted totem which is danced down the street on the shoulders of a crowd of red hatted Italian men.
In addition to the charming cultural event, it's also just a standard New York City carnival replete with the usual potentially intestine-devastating food, overpriced rides that have clearly seen better days, fixed games, and merchants of mostly reflective junk.
Our kids have always loved going to the Feast, and start clamoring to be taken as soon as they see the trailers arrive for set up at the beginning of July. Before it has even opened, they are arguing that we should visit multiple times this year. It always seems that last year they did not get enough opportunities to win a dirty stuffed animal with twenty dollars worth of ping pong ball tossing, dart throwing, or water pistol squirting.
Let me be honest, just in case it is not already clear. I don't like the carnival aspect of the Feast for many of the obvious reasons. My most significant gripe, however, is that I really do not enjoy my interactions with the carnival workers (is the term "carnie" considered derogatory? Or am I confusing it with other "y"/"ie" ending slangy descriptions of people?)
The endless shouting at "Mommy" to throw money away on my children's behalf somehow bothers me more than it should. Not to mention the intense pressuring that is rolled out should we actually stop in front of any game to consider it.
But, let me wrap this up quickly as you are certainly wondering what this has to do with a pug wearing a hat... Suffice it to say that the problem was easily solved this year, possibly never to return.
I decided that the kids were definitely old enough to manage their own currency this time. I made this assessment despite the fact that they are not good in crowds and are also remarkably poor at holding onto paper money in a discrete fashion. I thought it likely that the cash would be taken off of them before they even had a chance to spend it, but decided it was well worth the risk.
On the way over, I handed them each some bills and explained they could spend it however they wished, but that there would be no more forthcoming.
Actually holding the money themselves instantly sucked all of the joy out of the carnival for them. Suddenly, they concluded that the food and the rides were overpriced, and that the games were a waste of money because they were fixed.
Of course, I had been making this argument for years, but had been unpersuasive when the money seemed to be coming out of (to their minds) a potentially endless fount in mom's backpack.
They did each play the try to toss the ball into a bucket game once because the supposed prize was a PlayStation 4 and that was too entrancing to completely bypass. Mysteriously, it was ever so easy to put the ball in the bucket during the "demonstration throw" but then totally impossible to keep it from bouncing back out when they were playing for the actual prize. In the past, they never believed me when I told them that this game in particular was obviously fixed. But this year, they were convinced after spending only $5.
And the game operators were much less obnoxious about trying to take money directly away from children, so the whole experience was much less stressful for me.
Less fun for the kids of course.
But I feel I've done my job as a parent when I've managed to suck the joy out of something for my kids. Just kidding.
They did not, however, take the remaining cash home and put it into their college fund. They pooled their remaining bills and bought the silly "YOLO" hat ("you only live once"- if that needs explanation) for the younger kid.
On the way to camp wearing the hat, he posed in front of the Christian Slater poster on the subway platform. It seemed like a napkin worthy juxtaposition....as long as his face was replaced by that of a pug.