There are so many unattractive things about the county fair: It’s hot. The food is unhealthy and overpriced. Everything there is expensive. You always leave tired and filthy, crop-dusted with a thin layer of dirt that permeates everything in sight. It’s crowded. The lines are long, and you end up with a ton of stuff to carry.
But boy, do kids love it. We drove past the fair one evening while it was in full swing on our way home, and I heard oohs and ahhs from the backseat.
“Please Mommy, can we go? Look, there’s the ferris wheel!”
“No, not tonight. We need to get home and get settled to get ready for bed. You have school tomorrow.”
It is so much more convenient to go to the fair before school starts, but this year, it was scheduled during the first week of school. We are also very budget-conscious and try to spend as conservatively as we can, and we limit activities during the week. We had family in town as well, but there were no plans set for the following night. I suddenly got a sudden whim, an urge to submit to the call of YOLO, and suggested that we go to the fair. Why not change it up a bit, right?
We went ahead and said yes to our kids. We said yes to staying out until 10:30 p.m. on a school night to let them ride fair rides. We said yes to the high-priced balloon-popping games and the ring-the-bell-with-a-sledgehammer game. We held our cheesy prizes (that could easily be purchased at a dollar store at less of a cost) under our arms as we made our way through the fun house with the zig-zag sliding stairs and the monkey tunnel.
We ate giant corn dogs and cotton candy, and the kids had ketchup on their faces and sticky hands. My littlest one had county fair dust all up one side as he lay down on the ground to play dead after an epic inflatable sword battle with his dad.
We rode the merry-go-round and the tugboat. We watched a guy get shot out of a cannon and stunt-bike riders. The kids got to see their mom and dad belly-laugh like never before while we were tossed around and sprayed with water on one of the big rides. We rode the swings that went too high and let the little one pull rubber ducks out of the water for more prizes, and we watched the lines for the children’s rides dwindle to almost nothing as we stayed way too late.
With immense satisfaction, I said yes to just about every request for junk food and games, and we ended up with a few stuffed animals, four swords, full bellies and big, big smiles. The boys chattered nonstop in the backseat on the way home and swung the neon-lighted sword back and forth while laughing at its nighttime glow and the patterns it made on the roof of the car. I drove home in silence with the biggest smile I’ve had in a long time. It’s so outside the norm of anything we would normally do, and it felt so good to say yes.
We got home and talked about our night before we finally got the little one off to bed. I let the big one stay up late and didn’t bother with bath time. We all went to bed dirty and happy. It truly was the best night ever.
The kids went to school the next day with their crop-dusted shoes and ride stamps on their arms. To some, they may have looked unsightly or unkempt, but you would be remiss to feel sorry for them. There are a lot of unattractive things about the county fair, but for three and a half hours, we didn’t have a care in the world. We had fun. So for all of the dirt on our nearly new shoes and all of the stuff we had to carry home, it felt so incredibly good, and I hope that, like me, my boys will always remember that night we said yes.