I read the book “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen a few years ago. It was a good book and after reading it I realized that my younger two kids have never been to the circus. I’m ambivalent about the circus. It’s a bit of a ripoff, and I am conscientious about animal treatment. On the other hand, it seems like the circus is something every kid should experience at least once. Our oldest, Jaron, has been to the circus. We went when he was 6 years old with some friends, and there’s one enduring memory from that experience. The Tiger Tamer.
The Tiger Tamer is not a person. It is an object. It is a testament to frugality, parental genius, and to the creativity of a 6 year old’s mind. I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let me set the stage appropriately for your enjoyment, the way a true ring master would.
There are lights, glitz and glamour all around us. Jaron is mesmerized by spark shooting guns, battery powered twirly-gig wands, and all manner of toys and gadgets. It seems like every other kid has at least one of these things and is proudly waving it with gusto. Jaron, of course, relentlessly pesters us for a gun, a wand, or a neon lit hat. He wants everything in sight, as 6 year olds do. I’ve always been cheap. That isn’t a new thing. We paid enough for the tickets. I wasn’t about to drop more money on overpriced toys. Our friends did buy some toys for their kids, and some cotton candy, which only added to the unfairness of life in little Jaron’s eyes. I wasn’t about to drop money on overpriced food either, so we tell Jaron to enjoy the show and drink the smuggled water we brought in Lianne’s purse. Ah yes, sitting in the nosebleeds with your parents, kids playing with their cool toys and eating cotton candy all around you, and all you’ve got is this bottle of room temperature water. Poor Jaron.
So you have the setting. Jaron, the typical, needy 6 year old. Us, the stingy parents. The stage is set. Here comes the parental genius.
The tiger comes out, along with the trainer and his prod-whip-stick thingy. Jaron loves it. He is enthralled by the power of the tiger and the way the trainer is able to control the beast’s movements. Jaron stands, smiling and exclaiming with every trick. Imagine the power of that trainer. He’s like a superhero!
Here’s one piece of critical information that you, the reader, need to understand. The cotton candy at this circus isn’t woven around a thin piece of cardboard, instead it is in a bag, and the bag is attached to a nice, foot long, wooden stick. Parental genius ensues.
Right about then our friends finish off their cotton candy. We ask if we can have the cotton candy stick. They happily oblige. As the tiger show is wrapping up we present the stick to, a still awestruck, 6 year old Jaron. With appropriate pomp we declare, “Jaron, this is your new Tiger Tamer. It is just for you. Use it wisely.”
His face lights up, and right there in our seats he starts taming imaginary tigers all around him. He waves and points the Tiger Tamer and the tigers roll over, leap, and cower with his every command. The Tiger Tamer is a hit! Lianne and I give each other a surreptitious high five.
Jaron keeps The Tiger Tamer for years, reveling in the glory and power it imbues. He even uses it to control his dad sometimes when they wrestle. The powerful stick renders Dad helpless, and Jaron is always able to escape. The Tiger Tamer is the perfect toy. It is right up there with the big cardboard box, the sparking rocks, and the stick shaped like a gun. Endless hours of enjoyment, tied to a shared experience, no cost.