Given the choice between supervising organized sports or running through the woods dressed as medieval misfits and warriors, my choice is pretty easy. I'd take this option any day.
Indeed, as a twenty year old I participated in a few LARP (live action role play) events, (and not because my kid needed a ride), putting on my own armor, cape, and shield. But this time, at just days shy of 44, I felt a little out of my element. Sage had a two-day LARP that he wanted to attend, and rather than catch a ride with another family he really wanted me to come along. We could bring the camper, then sleep out after each event.
I suggested to Pete that he could go instead, but with a broken arm, sleeping in the camper would be more difficult than managing farm chores without Sage and I. (sigh.)
And so I decided to go. I would stay in the camper and work on lesson plans and recipes for the upcoming summer camp while Sage and the others played. And also I would knit. And drink copious, unreasonable amounts of tea.
It sounded dreamy, actually. Two six-hour days of me-time? Yes, please.
Sage tried to convince me to LARP, too, but I made some excuses and told him that I might join in at the next event.
But then, standing on the edge of the field, surrounded by LARPers of all ages, one of the organizers looked at me (with piercing transparent purplish-blue contact lensed eyes), and pointedly asked, "So are you playing?"
I stumbled about for excuses of about the work I needed to do and she replied with a blank purply-eyed stare.
"And… that was the lamest excuse ever," I admitted.
She silently nodded.
The next thing I knew I was draped in a gold tabard (game code: invisible non-character) and invited in to lurk on the sidelines and photograph the two day event, despite having only blue jeans and a t-shirt to wear underneath.
As long as I stayed out of the way.
I silently tucked my knitting back into my project bag and put my lesson plans away.
The truth is, Sage is growing up fast.
His world and mine are slowly moving apart from one another, as they are meant to do.
But he asked me to play. Not just the purple-eyed lady. My teenager. And it isn't often that he asks me to play anymore. How long until he stops for good?
These days are more fleeing than ever, it seems.
And just as I was when he was small and wanted me to play trains or trucks or play kitchen, I'm a little out of my element. I'm fumbling along, faking my way through.
But so what? Isn't that the very essence of parenting? Two parts love and one part faking it. We step out of our comfort zone and into in a world of our child's making, ever surprised by the bits of ourselves we discover along the way.
Another Viroqua mom was there, supervising her son who was too young to participate without a guardian. I'm pretty sure she didn't know she'd be playing when she arrived. Not gold tabard photography and lurking, but a full costume and weapons and the rest.
"Rachel, can you hold my shield for a minute?"
She was wrangling her weaponry as we headed into the woods. I took her foam shield, then teased, "You've never asked me that before."
"Yeah," she replied. "It's a whole new level of our friendship!"
We laughed and discussed how LARPing is a whole new level of motherhood as well. I think as parents we step up expecting music lessons or organized sports, dance class or martial arts. But not this. Not swords and chainmail and role play.
But as parents we go with the flow. We help our kids find what they love; then we stand on the sidelines (or beside them at the battering ram, as the case may be) and wildly cheer them on.
And I realized in that moment how amazing it is for these kids – and these adults – to find this niche were they truly belong. To find a place to express this creative, all-in imaginative part of themselves that for many is stifled in their day to day life.
It was surprisingly inspiring to watch.
Isn't that what we all desire? To find that place that thing that makes us come alive? And yeah, it might be soccer. But for many of us (or I'd wager most of us) it isn't.
And that was how it happened that I rolled into my 44th birthday wishing I had more period appropriate clothing to wear under my tabard, and plotting and planning what I would bring to the next event.
Parenting is strange business, my friends. It changes us in ways we never, ever imagined.
And for that I am consistently grateful.
Oh, and one more thing – does anyone have any pointy ears I can borrow for a couple of days in May?
I might just need them.
You can read about Last Hope LARP here.