I often joke that I cosplay because I haven’t grown out of the dressing-up phase. I can clearly remember being a child, and having a large white ottoman chest full of my mum’s old gowns and other miscellaneous dressing-up clothes.
It was a wonderful way of passing the time when snowed under in rural Derbyshire, in between Hotwheels car pile-ups and inedible-looking desserts (grey pastry jam tarts were dish of the day from Chef Minxie).
When I discovered I was to be a parent, I did what most people of this internet era do: leapt straight onto Google for information and guidance. I was surprised and a little disheartened to discover that searching the terms “Cosplaying parents” or “parents who cosplay”, or indeed any search term that included the words “parent” and “cosplay” brought up only articles and questions regarding being allowed to cosplay by a parent.
I found that most frustrating, as I like to have guidelines for things I am unfamiliar with, and here was something totally new and unfamiliar and no guidelines to be had. I certainly don’t kid myself that I’m a cosplay-parent-guru, but I would like to share some of my experiences in the hope they might help other cosplayers about to become parents. Please note that these are personal experiences, and may not be applicable in all situations.
First off: Don’t do what I did. I assumed, in my infinite wisdom, that I would be totally fine to attend a convention in full cosplay two months after having given birth. This was not one of my finer moments, certainly. Time-management has never been my forte, and adding that to the erratic sleep-patterns and level of attention a newborn needs meant my stress levels were far higher than usual. Costumes got dropped left, right, and centre, and the old ones I tried on didn’t fit. Guess I’d forgotten the fact my body changed shape over those nine months I was carrying my son, who knew?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I ended up with a single costume, a masquerade costume that was finished in the hotel and didn’t fit right, and an awful lot of illness brought on by lack of sleep and exhaustion. I needed to spend more money on a hotel room to house both myself, my Mum (as babysitter) and my son (henceforth to be referred to as His Royal Highness/HRH), and found that with the above issues I spent more time there than at the event itself. Not an ideal situation, all-in-all. On the plus side, I did discover that HRH is not afraid of, confused by, or otherwise concerned with my appearance when in costume. This was a concern, as (according to Daphne Maurer of McMaster University) babies generally do not immediately recognise features, but instead face shape and hair. With a wig and my face covered in a small pharmacy’s worth of makeup, there was the potential that he would have been terrified. That he was not was a great relief! This situation might not be so difficult in two-parent households, especially if one parent is a cosplayer and the other is not.
Conventions may also be frightening for a baby/small child due to the sheer volume of people. After that initial foray I have been cosplaying without my son. Most events, if I am honest, are not small-child friendly; many of the ones I frequent are either over-eighteen only (Amecon, dear lamented Ayacon) or are just far, far too busy to risk bringing him along without the very high potential for fear, tantrums and overstimulation (MCM Comic Con, LFCC). It has not been an easy run between bribing asking my mother to babysit, and working on costumes in the few hours when HRH naps. Working on the costumes when HRH is not napping proves to be even more interesting. Have you ever tried sewing with a two-year-old on your lap “helping”? It’s surprising how much space a child can take up when they are determined to assist you with you “sewi’ ‘achi’e”, regardless of the fact they had only seen the thing half an hour ago.
I cannot speak for all cosplayers who are/wanting to become parents, but I personally wish to include HRH in my hobby now he is older. Cosplay is, other than gaming (specifically Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplay Games/MMORPGs) my biggest hobby, and a very important one to me. It is a hobby that is still outside the ‘norm’, regardless of the recent forays into it from media networks such as Syfy. As a cosplayer with a child, I wish to introduce him to friends who cosplay and in doing so cement at an early age that diversity is to be celebrated not condemned.
I’d love him to decide, as he gets older, that he wants to be a part of this community; find costumes he wants to make/have made, characters he’d like to portray, the works. It isn’t something I would ever force him to do, however. If he tells me he doesn’t want to go to X event, or wear Y costume, I wouldn’t force it.
Children appear to enjoy playing dress-up from a young age- indeed my son’s nursery has a large supply of outfits I often see the children wearing when I drop off/pick him up, and he has been known to don crazy outfits himself.
So perhaps in cosplay I am connecting with my inner child?
On the surface, sharing my hobby with HRH shouldn’t be a difficult thing to do. Indeed, on the surface, it seems like an easy enough answer: Kids like to play dress up, HRH is a kid, ergo HRH will play dress up in outfits made for cosplay.
Now, as a cosplayer, I much prefer to cosplay from a series/film/book/game that I am familiar with, and can thoroughly get into. Sailor Moon, Kiddy Grade, Full Metal Alchemist, Marvel movie universe, Doctor Who, Disney, and Guild Wars 2 are all things that interest me and inspire me to cosplay. HRH is three. According to http://www.homeeducator.com, a three-year-old’s attention span is anywhere between three-to-eight minutes, which means I am limited with what I can show him. His having a massively over-active imagination and a predilection for Night Terrors means it isn’t a good idea for me to introduce him to Doctor Who yet, especially given how petrified of Finding Nemo he is (if your child is calling out for a fictional superhero train to come and save him from the boat in Finding Nemo, Doctor Who is not a wise choice of visual entertainment).
If HRH can’t watch Finding Nemo without requiring an Action Chugger intervention, tormenting him with mutated half-humans or comically improbable breasts is not an option. This needs to be a hobby of enjoyment, a part of my life he can share, not something that’s going to give him nightmares and me possible visits from concerned social workers.
Starting small is the best course of action, so this year I have opted to bring HRH to Minamicon with me in Southampton. It’s an easy con for me to get to (just down the A27 and turn left a few times) and the committee have been willing to allow under-eighteens along when accompanied by a responsible adult.
I’m hoping that this will be a good, easy, introduction to the world of cosplay for HRH. He has not shown any sign of distress when surrounded by cosplayers (indeed he spent a good fifteen minutes gazing adoringly at and flirting with a cosplayer in a humanoid My Little Pony costume at the last Minamicon) and as mentioned he does not seem surprised by seeing his mother looking less than normal.
Obviously, if you are planning on taking your child to a convention, I would suggest first contacting the committee and making sure that they have no problems with it. For the smaller events like Minami I would be surprised if there were issues*, but double-checking never hurt anyone. Because it will be HRH’s first event, I am only planning on having him there for a day and overnight, but even though it is going to be a short time, I am hoping to participate in the masquerade with him. This will, of course, mean cosplay.
The first step I had to take in the decision-making process of choosing costumes (it’s an ongoing thing, this) is to put my own ego out of the picture. Now, I’m not out to become cosplay famous, but it’s a wonderful ego boost for someone to recognise the costume you’ve spent hours – and often stupid amounts of money – on. When I masquerade with HRH I can’t focus on my own ego boost, because it is highly unlikely that either of the two viable choices for my costume will be recognisable by most. His, however, should be easy to recognise, and it will be his excitement that I need to focus on. As much as I would enjoy to cosplay from, say, Marvel with him, HRH hasn’t seen any of it. In a way, it would be like me cosplaying from a series or game I haven’t watched/played: I know I wouldn’t enjoy it, so how can I shove him in a costume he might not enjoy?
I’m not saying that as a parent who cosplays, you have to stop doing costumes you enjoy, that is definitely not something I would advocate (and nor am I suggesting that you would do something to upset your child). However, when they are young, keeping them entertained extremely important, as we all know how ‘adorable’ children are when they get bored and frustrated!
For HRH at Minami, I have decided to make him a costume based on a character from Pixar’s Cars: It is his favourite film by far, and Lightning McQueen is one of his favourite characters. This way, although he won’t entirely understand the concept of cosplay this time, it will be a fun dress-up game for him. I will either be choosing a character that matches up with his, or wearing a Pixar-themed dress to match up alongside him.
Fingers crossed that this will be a pleasant experience for HRH and myself! I will be doing a write-up of Minamicon, so hopefully there will be good news to report!
*Having spoken to one of the committee members, HRH is clear to go!
main image © Pouncy