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Kids @ Cons [Jan. 27th, 2010|04:29 pm]
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[mood |quixoticquixotic]

Way back in '91, (or was it '92?) I ran a convention and very deliberately insisted on a panel about being a parent and staying active in fandom. It had two two fan mums on it. Back at that point, I think I knew three people with kids that were still active fans.

There were quite a few more who had basically dropped out for various reasons - time/money constraints, had moved on to other interests, lost interest in fandom in the face of the new little person who needed them, just felt they couldn't do both, etc.

That was why I wanted this panel, because there were people dropping out simply because they didn't think they could do both, be a parent and an active fan. I wanted people to be able to hear from some parents who were still going to cons and clubs, and to be able to pick up some tips, so they could do the same if they wanted to.

What amazed me was the sheer lack of attendance. Especially by women who were talking about having children themselves. Because, to me, it wasn't a subject that was just about keeping yourself in fandom, it was about how to maintain the aspects of your life that you wanted to hang on to in the face of the world altering addition of another person in your life.

I thought this way a decade and a half before I even had kids, because I knew that many people will end up looking after a child at some point. And it'd be a shame to lose them simply because they didn't think they could do the stuff that they enjoyed, and still care for their kid. No-one wins in that scenario.

There are people who say that kids shouldn't be allowed at cons, and I can honestly see their point. Kids can be disruptive, excitable, loud, and annoying. They can run around, bump into people, and wave things about with no regard for the people nearby who might be hit. They can be a huge imposition to those around them who genuinely shouldn't have to put up with it. People have paid to enjoy the convention, they shouldn't have that enjoyment lessened by some out of control child.

Of course there are more than a few adult fans the above paragraph applies to as well. I can think of instances where I have seen supposedly mature adults doing all these things. In some cases at con after con after con.

Shall we stop them coming to cons too? 'Cause I'm sure I can easily list a few names that I'd rather not attend cons any more. People who always fucking yell stuff out from the audience whether it's warranted or not, especially the ones who think they're funny. Who drink too much and then proceed to be completely obnoxious fucking tools for the rest of the night. Panelists that never seem to prepare, or who always seem to talk over the top of their fellow panelists. Con-runners that never try to do a good job, but always aim for average, and con-runners that will step on whomever they please because running cons is not about community but power.

These people seriously lessen my con experience. They lessen it substantially more than any child ever has. (Except perhaps my own, but he basically kept us trapped in our room most of the time, and was pretty delightful to everyone else, so I'm prepared to put up with him - for now!)

But, you know, at the end of the day, if a child is acting up in any way, the first person who is aware of it is usually the parent. In fact, they will often be cringing. They will usually try to sort the situation out in fairly short order, and if they can't, they will take the child and leave. And as annoyed as you may be by the two minutes of a kid annoying you, how about a bit of thought for the poor parent who has to leave the item they wanted to see and continue dealing with the unruly child.

Oh there are some selfish parents. People who will just let their kid do what it wants, won't keep an eye on it, or worse, will expect other people to do so without being asked. But you know, it's not hard to go up to them and ask them to do something about their disruptive child. And if you don't want to be the bad guy, it's usually not hard to find a committee member who can do it for you.

I have Chaired four conventions and been on several committees, but I've never had a situation where I had to ask a parent to take their child and leave. I have, however, had occasion to chastise and threaten with expulsion a couple of adults, and I've had to ask one professional author to leave a con for breaking convention rules that he was well aware of beforehand.

Maybe kids don't belong at cons, but I prefer their behaviour to some of the adults who attend, because at least the children have a legitimate excuse to behave immaturely.

[User Picture]From: catundra
2010-01-27 09:50 am (UTC)
I was pointed here by cassiphone and find the ongoing debate very interesting. As you probably know, I kind of whacked together the children's space at Swancon last year. I don't have children although I have friends who do. I have read some of the comments about this issue (not just here but other places too) and always wonder why I feel upset that there would be people who want or even expect cons to be child free zones. I agree that they can be loud, in the way and immature. I also agree that some adults can be too and frankly, I find their behaviour far less acceptable.
Anyway, back to why I feel upset...I think it comes down to the fact that I don't see why fans should assume a fan based SF con should be child free. It is a community that represents the demographic of society and communities like that have children as well as teenagers and adults. Five star restaurants are not a community. Pubs might be a community but you would be lucky to find other demographics there (teens and even women) let alone kids.
The wonderful, welcoming thing about fandom is how it is a family and within that family are families. It doesn't mean we have to all love each other, there is the embarassing uncle, the sibling rivalry and now, as fandom matures, the irritating kids...but they are our kids and one day we are going to be the embarassing uncles and aunts drooling in the corner and I would hope that these kids show us more respect that some people are currently showing them. Maybe we won't be welcomed by them...
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-27 10:36 am (UTC)
I heard nothing but glowing praise for your efforts :)

Continuum has at a few points discussed having child care, creches, etc. It hasn't been practical or affordable to do due to insurance issues, public liability, venue size or cost, numbers that would make use of it, etc.. But it was certainly discussed, and something we tried (and failed) to find ways of doing.

So I don't mind if a con doesn't provide child related services or programming, because I know first hand how hard it can be to get off the ground. And if a con wanted to say that it was a child-free event, that's fine with me, I support their right to do that. I may not agree with the idea, but it's their con. If people don't like it, they won't go.

The sorts of pubs I grew up around, were more of a community. They're where I learned to play pool, and developed my love of raspberry cordial. No one ever seemed worried about the various kids that were brought in from time to time. As an adult I've been to pubs that were the same. I've never heard anyone complain that merely having a child present meant they couldn't talk to their mates, swear, and drink the way they wanted.
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[User Picture]From: callistra
2010-01-27 11:25 pm (UTC)
Do you know if there's anything the kids can join into in this year's Continuum? We'll have both of them with us.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-27 11:38 pm (UTC)
No idea. I haven't looked at the program, and I try not to peek over their shoulders too much.

Basically, I want them to feel free to run the con their way, but to be able to say 'we want advice' when it suits them.
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[User Picture]From: callistra
2010-01-27 11:49 pm (UTC)
cool thanks
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[User Picture]From: rwrylsin
2010-01-28 01:05 am (UTC)
Not sure what else is on the programme, but David & I have agreed to do juggling and foam-sword games again, both will be open to anyone of an age to want to participate.

(David hasn't had much success teaching toddlers to juggle, but they do enjoy throwing the balls at him.)
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[User Picture]From: callistra
2010-01-28 01:46 am (UTC)
Ooo, excellent! I was thinking Chesh and I would have to take turns hiding in a hotel room (if we have one) but that sounds like much more fun! I can juggle very badly, but I'm willing to help.
I don't think I'm on any panels
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-28 01:49 am (UTC)
If Tom Savini can teach his three-year old to do backflips, I expect David to be able to teach toddlers to juggle :P

Must try to get along, juggling is one of those things I've always wanted to learn.
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[User Picture]From: crankynick
2010-01-28 01:51 am (UTC)
Didn't Stefen try to teach you and Mitch, once, at a SwanCon far back in the distant past?

As I recall it wasn't a notable success.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-01-28 03:04 am (UTC)
Not that I recall. Maybe I was so horrifically bad I've blocked it from my memory :)
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[User Picture]From: mireille21
2010-01-28 04:22 am (UTC)
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