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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: mireille21
2010-01-27 01:06 pm (UTC)
Late so I'll have to hone in on just a few points.

it has been observed by more than one person in one of the various parental type groupos that I attend that children are regularly excluded from 'life' basically, as if they should be kept behind closed doors. No, this is wrong, they are part of our community and deserve to be treated with respect as well.

My experience with J at Conjectue compared to Worldcon was interesting. One main thing was that Conjecture being fairly small it was OK to let him roam at will and most people adored him. He happily crawled around and never once disrupted a panel. Worldcon was packed so I didnt' have that luxury and had to leave panels at times, or use different tactics.

most people at Worldcon were great, I did get some interesting and stupid experiences though. I think one of the top ten had to be the panel where i got to the room early and secured a seat down the front right next to the wall. This was so the pram would not obstruct anyone's view and also so I could make a quick exit via the doors at the front of the room if necessary. I got there early because I knew he was due for a sleep and if I had sufficient time to rock the pram back and forth he would nod off. I was still rocking the pram when the panel started, well out of everyone's way, when some woman behind me went, "Tsk, it's sooo distracting." I felt like saying to her, "Well I could stop rocking the pram and then see how distracting his screaming would be". J nodded off as expected and slept through the entire panel, but it just goes to show how intolerant some people can be because of their perception of children and not because the child has actually done anything.

Observing people's behaviour towards a pram vs a wheelchair was also equally interesting and annoying. At one point someone complained to the friend about the pram being in their way, and kicked up a fuss when they could have just quietly asked me to move. i was sitting in a seat reserved for 'disabled' because it was the only place I could sit without blocking the centre aisle, (and there were no disabled people actually in this panel). If a person in a wheelchair had been sitting there they would have been faced with the same problem of not easily being able o exit the row, but would they have complained to a disabled person? I was considerate with my child throughout my whoel con attendance. Shame the same can't be said for some of the other people there.

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