When I was a kid, I loved the circus.

I loved the idea of riding huge elephants and fancy horses, and thought it would be fun to be a clown. I loved the thrill of watching the acrobats and trapeze artists.

As a kid, I watched the circus with eager anticipation of the next amazing feat. Would that guy really catch the girl in midair? What if he didn’t?! It was scary and exciting all at once.

I still love the circus and was excited to take my kids to see the Super American Circus earlier this month.

But as amazing and heart-stopping as some of the feats were, I found myself watching the circus not as a kid, but as a mother, thinking about the mothers of the performers.

What kind of mothers produce circus performers?

Obviously, circus mothers produce circus performers. The Wallendas have been flying for almost a century, generation after generation. When the Wallenda moms sang, “Rock a bye, baby, on the tree tops,” they meant it. And when the kids were grounded, they found themselves on terra firma.

(Super American Circus producer, Cornell “Tuffy” Nicholas, was a circus kid, whose mother trained bears. I bet she had some great mothering skills.)

Then there are those kids who came from the homes of beleaguered mothers:

“No dear, you can’t wrap the ends of your batons in rags and set them on fire.”

“Ivan! What do you think you are doing? Get that tower of logs and boards off my table! No… no… don’t stand on them!”

Maybe some of those circus kids had lax, creative mothers: “You want to build a diving board so you can dive into the trampoline from 20 feet up? Sure. Go for it!”

And I’m sure somewhere in the circus rings of the world there are children of home-school moms: “Why, of course, you can learn how to hang from a scarf by the back of your head. But first, I want to see some plans to scale of a safe scarf-and-pulley system, and I want you to interview our chiropractor and write a three-page report on the dangers of full-body traction, particularly its effect on C1 and C2.”

I’m joking, you know. Circus performers come from all kinds of families.

But I do know this: Behind every great circus performer is a great mother.

Usually with gray hair.

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