Conventions become an altogether different experience with a baby, I am here to tell you. Last month, I did ReaderCon with a nine-month-old.
Things I did right:
- Brought a good stroller. This was totally by accident, but I ended up borrowing one. This held the diaper bag, con schedule, dealers’ room goodies, and anything and everything else.
- Brought food. Not just to the hotel for the weekend, but every time we left the room. Because my child can EAT.
- Set my expectations low. I’ve never made it to all the panels, readings, and other events I wanted to. With a baby, I set one or two priorities for the day and attended the rest as I could.
- Avoided attempting more than two panels/readings/events in succession
Things I might have done better:
- Planned to leave the baby in the room with someone I could trust rather than try to have her in the room with me when I was on a panel. Sacrifice the support of friends for the ability to focus on what I’m doing.
- Communicated with others about what I/baby needed. This is an ongoing issue wherein I try too hard to fit to others’ schedules, rather than giving the greatest consideration to the baby’s schedule. Some people may (and have) accuse me of spoiling her, but when it makes the difference between being able to sit through a panel while she plays and maybe happy-babbles or having to leave because she’s screaming, I will continue to “spoil” her.
- Brought my watch. I figured my phone would be sufficient for timekeeping, utterly forgetting her screen fascination and the rudeness of obviously checking the time. Watches also supply a handy distraction.
- Planned her food-on-the-go better. Cut the fruit in the room (she won’t care if it browns) so it’s one less thing to juggle later. Snacks saved us as relatively low-mess and low-fuss.
Things I Learned (that have nothing to do with what I did or didn’t do):
- Babies are amazing ice breakers and conversation-starters. I hadn’t talked to that many people I didn’t know since my first or second ReaderCon. It was glorious and helped make up for the events i had to miss.
- Bringing someone else along to watch the baby, while an amazing thought and an option available to some, is not feasible for me. I’d be better off leaving her home, but that’s not an experiment I’m ready to try.
- WisCon offers daycare and makes it almost laughably affordable! Woohoo! And I’m sure most con boards are tired of hearing that suggestion as a way of making cons more family-friendly and accessible to parents. Yes, it would be a huge expense and liability and I imagine individual state laws could theoretically make it all but impossible, but unless state law interferes, it seems generally a question of priority. (Note: this assumes a certain size of con with certain financial resources. The smaller the con, the more financially prohibitive and childcare is
- I know how budgets work and I know how fundraising works when a budget, even with finagling and recalculating, falls short. If that accessibility and inclusivity is a high enough priority, it will happen.
- What would also be great? Especially in lieu of daycare? Children’s programming. Storytime, playtime, crafts and activities . . . There are all sorts of ways to tie into the themes and regular programming.
- People are generally awesome. No one even gave me the look of, “Wtf are you doing with a baby here?” Though I’m sure her happy, not fussy nature helped. I had people offering to play with her and help keep her occupied, which helped me actually absorb more of the panel discussions. Which was wonderful.
I would love to see kids of all ages more visibly present at cons. The visibility alone would go a long way toward making cons more welcoming to parents, especially of young kids. I mean, we’re all fans. How great would it be to have the option of sharinge that with our kids?