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by Billy Mitchell

As a parent, Yes is a word that is used too infrequently.

It's very easy to say no, especially to toddlers. "Can I get a pet scorpion?" is one of the questions to which the word "no" seemed to fit quite nicely.

"Can I have popcorn for breakfast?" was another question that cropped up recently. The knee-jerk reaction was "no", but upon reflection became a "yes". I examined the ingredients of the cereal box alternative and decided that - yes - freshly popped, whole-grain corn with a little butter really wasn't such a bad choice as part of a balanced breakfast. (There's a nutritionist cringing somewhere right now.)

"Yes" is a great exercise in creativity, as any practitioner of improvisational theatre can tell you. "No" shuts down possibilities immediately. Even the contemplation of a "yes" answer can open up new worlds of fun and adventure. By avoiding the initial impulse to say "no", you leave you and your children open to options. These options can include:

  • The time-contingent "yes". "Yes, you can have a pet scorpion as soon as you're old enough to live in your own house."
  • The conditional "yes". "Yes, you can watch that detestable Sponge Bob after you clean up your toys."
  • The "yes" that's really a "no". "Yes, you can play with daddy's computer as soon as you learn speak Latin."

Recently, we said yes to an event put on by the Society for Creative Anachronism . For those unfamiliar to this society, they are "an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating pre-17th-century European history." Hardly the place to take a four-year-old boy...or is it?

How we found out about the event is a story in itself. My wife was at the supermarket and wound up in line behind a woman dressed in medieval garb. She struck up a conversation (Important Note: Dress in period costume and you're almost guaranteed to meet new people) and found out that the Society was meeting not far from where we live.

We arrived at a park-like setting (seeing as how it was a park, no great surprise there) to find ourselves transported back four centuries. We were greeted by a charming group of individuals clad in authentic costume who briefed us on the niceties (addressing folk as My Lord or My Lady, etc) and invited to stroll the grounds.

Two fine Ladies explain the rules of combat with care

Archery, fencing and heavy-sword fighting were the combat arts on display and after watching a few bouts we happened upon the option of letting our son participate in a duel. We signed the necessary paperwork (legal waivers and such) and he was issued a helmet the size of a waste-paper basket and a small plastic-foam sword. A pair of fair maidens outlined the rules and, after bowing to the referee, his opponent and the crowd the battle began.

It was brief. My son's opponent, an able squire from a neighbouring barony, had obviously been trained in a Byzantine style - much feinting and sabre-rattling ensued. But all the bluster and high style was no match for my boy's Celtic heritage. One bold lunge and victory was his!

A hit! A palpable hit!

Now I know that many people will object to my allowing little boys to draw swords but let's face it: boys will be boys. If you don't let them play with foam swords they'll use sticks. We've never let him have a toy gun so anything even remotely shaped like a gun goes "bang" in his hands. I once found him brandishing a plastic number 4 as if it were a Smith & Wesson. Better, I say, to have him learn the rules of safety and sportsmanlike conduct in a controlled situation than to suppress his natural urges 'til they erupt in a schoolyard donnybrook.

And I do not aver that you should say yes to everything that comes along. The "scorpion as a pet" question is still being answered with a "no". A lobster, maybe, but the last time we got one of those as a pet it came to a tragic, butter-dipped end.

Billy Mitchell is a full-time dad and some-time comedian, raconteur and bon vivant from British Columbia. Find out more about him at




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