Monday, November 14, 2011

Natural Pageant vs. "Natural" Pageant

<---What "natural" means, apparently.

This past Saturday was my son's second ever toddler pageant.  Having done one, I thought I was better prepared for what to expect.  I'm an idiot.

My son's first pageant was a low-key affair; some kids and their parents in a hotel conference room, one outfit, one time onstage, and about 25% of the contestants were boys.  My amazing little boy won (yay!), we got a plastic crown, a sash, and a couple of trophies, and were home in time for lunch.  It was also a natural pageant, and I made a vow to only put him in natural pageants, as I feel that the glitz pageants aren't appropriate for children.

This past weekend's pageant was also billed as a natural pageant, though it did have an outfit-of-choice category, meaning that a clothing change would be required.  The OOC was supposed to be Christmaswear, so I chose a pair of green corduroys, a red shirt with a few rhinestones (very macho, and I got it at Kid2Kid for $5), and an adorable black top hat that my husband sewed a snowflake onto.  The hat made the outfit, and it was incredibly adorable.  For the "beauty" portion, we just decided he would wear his suit, like last time.

The pageant was located in a town over 2 hours away, and registration opened at 10:00, so I was up before 6:00, double-checking that we had everything and packing extra toys, snacks, etc.  My dad and mom came this time to provide a cheering section, so we all drove up together.  In true toddler fashion, my son stayed awake most of the drive, and then fell asleep for the last 20 minutes.  We had to wake him up to get him out of his carseat, and I was worried about how cranky he might be.

When we got to registration, it became obvious that we, the adults with him, were going to be the cranky ones.  We were surrounded by toddler girls with their hair in curlers and moms carrying garment bags.  When we got to the dressing room, it was a fog of hairspray and, "natural" pageant though it was supposed to be, there was plenty of make-up being applied, and even hairpieces being pinned in.  I saw the surreal image of a little girl, not even school age, carrying a plastic box with her curly fake hair in it.  Plenty of the little girls were crying, and I bristled when I heard one mom say, "Beauty is pain."

There wasn't much for my son and I to do to get ready.  We hung up his suit, but he had come dressed in his Christmaswear.  I brushed his hair, and we carried his top hat out to our seats.

And...they didn't start on time.  So all around us, all of us parents and assorted family were trying to keep our restless little ones still and primped.  They only started about 10 minutes late, but 10 minutes is an eternity in bored two-year-old time.  (It turns out, the emcee had to bow out at the last minute, so the pageant director was filling in for her.  Too much for one person to do, obviously.)

When they did finally start, I was a little turned off by what I saw.  Some of the coaching from the parents in the audience was really over the top, and, though a lot of the little girls looked adorable, the staged motions were more "fake" than "cute".

I was also a little disheartened to find that, though there were probably 50 contestants, less than 5% were boys.  My son had very little in the way of competition, and his main competitor was twice his age and far more experienced.

I tried introducing us to the boy and his mom when we were out in the hall for line-up, but the mom was standoffish and the boy sullen.  His sister was competing, so he had been entered into the pageant concurrently.  It was obvious to everyone except his mother that he didn't want to be there.

Fortunately, my son was totally opposite.  The few times during the long (about 8-hour) day that he got bored or fussy, he perked up the second he was told it was his turn onstage.  I'm sure the emcee could hear him out in the hall when he heard his name.  "Yay!  Mommy!  Let's GO!"

I walked onstage with him, trying to stand behind him and just make sure he hit all his "X"s.  (They have literal "X"s taped on the floor so the kids cover all the stage during their walk.)  My little man hammed it up, waving at his Papa and Nana, and blowing kisses.  There were a couple of times he got distracted by the confetti on the stage, and once or twice he wanted to wander over to look at the trophies, but he smiled big the whole time and was obviously having fun.

I wish all the kids had been enjoying themselves that much.  I heard plenty of moms out in the hall and the dressing room, berating and criticizing their children for poor performances.  I heard cursing, and mild threats.  It wasn't a good atmosphere, and I was relieved when the competition was finished and it was time to take an intermission while the judges tallied the scores.

At this point, no one in our party really cared much about crowning.  We wanted to get out of that building and eat Taco Bell and complain about the nutcase stage parents who had been surrounding us all day.  Everything had gone on waaay longer than expected, and we couldn't imagine a better reward than getting to leave that tiny backwoods town and get home.

Still, though; we'd made it this long, might as well see how the Little Man did.

Long story short, he did amazing.  He finished up with lots of goodies, like the stocking full of candy and participation trophy that all the contestants received, a couple of medallions (for things like "Best Hair"), and one huge four-feet-tall trophy that he is in awe of.  I was thrilled because he also came in first place out of all the boys, and won the Winter Wonderland 2011 King crown, sash, and trophy.  So, three new trophies, two new medallions, a crown, and a sash.  Also a stocking full of candy that he had mostly eaten by the time we got home.

Though he had a good time, and his prizes were lovely, I don't think we'll be doing many more pageants with that company any time soon.  The day was long, things weren't run very smoothly, and I didn't feel like it was a truly "natural" pageant (probably because I don't think "fake hair" equals "natural").  However, I am looking forward to the end of January.  There's a pageant with a low entry fee only about an hour away, and, as long as my little boy keeps having fun with them, it's something we'll keep trying.

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