[Ansteorra] children and teen activities in the SCA

Dr. C. M. Helm-Clark Ph.D. cat at rocks4brains.com
Sun Jan 20 18:21:08 PST 2008

> Currently, if you want teens and children to participate the 
> parent (responsible adult) has to be willing to take time from his or

Please take no offense since I mean my comments in the
general, not personal, sense.  Your post makes it clear
that you are an involved and concerned adult when it
comes to kids at events.  But you have addressed something
near to my heart and so I feel I should explain myself.

I have lived in 6 kingdoms (Ansteorra will be kingdom 7) 
and have observed that different patterns seem to hold
in different places for kids at events - and every kingdom
approaches and treats kids activities differently. I'm not
from around these parts (yet). 

Now I was once was a legal guardian of and had living with 
me a rather typical obstreperous young boy for a while. After
some years, things smoothed out for his post-divorce parents 
and he was no longer lived with me nor was my responsibility 
as far as the state of California was concerned. By the time 
he was a teenager, his dad and step-mother would drag him to 
events because they didn't trust him enough to leave him at 
home. (Good thing he lived most of the time with his mom, 
who trusted him enough to leave him at home alone, because 
he _was_ a trustworthy teen.) I will leave you to fill in 
just how much time his father and step-mother devoted to him 
while at events (try zero...). Parents like this deserve to 
be thumped in my opinion. The kid would come find me at
events because he knew I would have books on topics he liked
to read - and would borrow a book, find a quiet corner and
read (which is what he did a lot when he was in high school
anyway - he was deep into SciFi and still is.) The kid didn't
want to be there and he wasn't the only teen I knew in that
boat.  I started bringing premade packs of Magic the Gathering
cards and a box of the Paranoia RPG for the kid and two other
teens I knew in the same situation to use to kill time at yet
still another SCA event they didn't want to be at. I knew what
books and games would interest these boys and kept them on hand,
just in case, because their parents weren't as thoughtful. Need-
less to say, these sorts of parents are not my favorite people.

The West has a formal page school system and several other
activities that are traditionally taken up by kids at events,
like being list pages and helping to serve at feast. A good 
friend of mine was one of the folks who had set up a similar 
page school system in the Middle. But if a kid isn't interested
in any of those activities, then they are out of luck. Now my
charge was never really into page school though he liked to
serve feasts and do the list page thing when he was in grade 
school.  Otherwise, when he was with me at events, I had to 
dedicate time to make sure he had something to do and had a 
safe place to do it in, whether he was playing with other kids 
on site or just building stuff with his constructs set (I guess 
I just dated myself there...). I would not have been able to do 
it without help from friends and other parents/guardians. As a 
kingdom officer, I could never done it alone. 

It has to go without saying that if you have a kid with you,
you have spend time and be responsible for that kid. The kid's
needs have to come before the parent's/guardian's pleasures.
There are things kids can't do for themselves and if you just
dump the kid on the event and assume they get taken care of or
will take care of themselves, especially when they are young,
that's just not acceptable.  People who do stuff for kids at
events are wonderful but it makes me see red to see them and
their time abused by irresponsible parents and caretakers who
just dump their kids who just might not be interested in the 
SCA. And I assume we all already agree that it is not kosher
to treat the local SCA folks who run youth stuff as a baby-
sitting service. Very uncool. These things might not happen a 
lot here but I have unfortunately have seen it happen elsewhere.

If I could dictate how the world worked, the needs of your kids
would take precedence over your incidental hobby, which the SCA
qualifies as.  I get just a little rabid around the edges when
kids get neglected.  I try to hide the claws and fangs where no
one will see them but sometimes people spot them...  ;-)

Things got so bad in one kingdom where I lived that it was put
into kingdom law that any kids found at events without super-
vision by a babysitter or responsible caretaker, those parents
or guardians and their kids were subject to level 2 banishment
instantly (obviously this was before the most recent revision of
the SCA rules on sanctions).  The kingdom ended up paying a 
hefty sum of money to undo the damage from the vandalism caused
by a handful of unsupervised older kids at a crown tourney. The
2 families involved got shown the door. One of my best friends in 
the SCA handled the legal end for the kingdom on a pro bono basis 
with the fairgrounds where this happened with the result that we 
did not lose the use of that site like we had at other places in 
the past. And this incident was not the worst I have encountered
in the SCA. I would not be adverse if every kingdom enacted similar
strictures and regret the necessity where such things have already
happened. Stuff like this is a long way down the road from Diana's
backyard tourney and medievally-themed going-away party in 1966, 
and I believe it hurts us every time something like this yanks our 
attention away from that splendid original vision those folks had
on that May afternoon in Berkeley 42 years ago where every fighter
was noble and puissant and every person championed was (to quote 
Diana herself) indeed worthy of all honor.

When you live in awhile in one kingdom, it can seem like it is the
whole world - and it's easy to forget that other SCA kingdoms can be
very different places. (I've been to Lochac. Now that's different!)
Artemisia, kingdom #6 for me, has no hefty page school system and 
none of the traditional "kid roles" like list pages in the West. 
Artemisia does, however, have the best youth boffer activities I
have ever seen, and I've seen a few over 27 years in the SCA. In 
every way, the boffer tourney circuit is exactly the mirror of the 
rapier and heavy fighting circuits in Artemisia but the kids do 
most of the work running the tourneys, from heralding fights to 
doing the fighting. The kingdom lists office has recently started
running several of the youth boffer tourneys - all of this under 
the eye of a dedicated crew of adults who love running the youth 
boffer circuit. The guy who really made it happen for the kingdom
got a pel for it not too long ago. Recently, at many events, the 
main list field has begun to be reserved for part of the day for 
the boffer tourney and most everyone watches the kids fight with 
the same interest as they watch the rapier and heavy fighters. I 
have no idea how this magic thing has come about but I find it 
really wonderful and I expect I'll miss it when I move here in 2 
weeks. Artemisia is a low-population kingdom spread over 5 states
but what they've created with the youth boffer fighting is really
very special. One of the local "boffer" teens recently asked most
forthsoothly, on his knees!, for a favor from one of the little 
girls that a member brings along to fighter practice (where there
is an area dedicated for the boffer fighters to practice...). Who 
says chivalry is dead? Certainly not those kids!

Anyway, I pray I have not offended you with stating my opinion
on these subjects.  Please remember that in any discussion on 
an SCA list, I consider all to be my friends, though I may
sometimes "agree to disagree" with some of those friends. Recall
too that opinions are like sphincters: 
everyone has got one...   ;-)

I remain your friend,
Therasia von Tux,
no longer lurking,
moving to Ansteorra in 2 weeks

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