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Family Valued 9.21.05

Munich on the Lake

Does it qualify as a cultural event if you can enjoy a cold one while supervising the kids? You bet! Just ask the crowd transfixed by the German folk dancing of Bavarian Verein Alpengruen at Irondequoit's 18th Annual Oktoberfest.

It's a family-friendly atmosphere. Like a huge wedding reception, everyone between 2 and 102 gets on the dance floor. That takes the pressure off those of us who ought to know better.

Oktoberfest is held in three huge tents at Camp Eastman on Lake Shore Boulevard. The food court is in the middle. Bands play in the tents on either side. With seating in long rows of tables, there's plenty of European-style camaraderie even among the teetotalers.

Activities for the kids include making mosaic framed mirrors and something called crunchy rock candy art. Must be a German thing.

My 12-year-old son says, "I really like Oktoberfest. The food is bizarre and good. Let's just say it's definitely not a Big Mac." When pressed for details about his $9 schnitzel dinner from Swan's, he added, "The side of red cabbage mixes tart, sweet, and bitter tastes. It's really excellent!" Ditto the Black Forest torte from Helmut's.

Oktoberfest continues this weekend with Germany's Bodensee Express and other bands. Hours are Friday and Saturday, September 23 and 24, 12 to 11 p.m., Sunday, September 25, 12 to 6 p.m. Admission is $6, $3 on September 23, 12 to 3 p.m., kids under 6 free. Additional fees for children's activities. www.irondequoit.org, 336-6070.

--- Linda Kostin (www.junkstorecowgirl.com)

The grand experiment

I often tell new parents, "Welcome to the Great Adventure." Parenting is certainly that, and I like spoofing the notion that when you have kids, the adventurous part of your life is effectively over. But I think it's more accurate to call it "The Grand Experiment."

Once I was telling my father about some fashionable piece of parenting advice, and he said, "Yes, everything your parents did was wrong, everything your grandparents did was right." He didn't mean it defensively; rather, it has ever been so. Sort of.

We think about how we were brought up, reject or embrace various bits, read, get advice, and meditate. Then we stand at the tennis net of life while our little Roger Federers whack balls by our not-so-prepared selves, and we improvise. It's hopelessly complicated, and we're all born to lose.

The Grand Experiment has thousands of variables and no controls, with the outcomes no less than the lives of our children. If the action weren't constant, we'd be paralyzed by the enormity of the task.

The good news, as any parent of more than one child can attest, is we don't have that much control. We can screw up our little darlings a little, or soften a few blows, but largely, they become what they become. I often feel that the real work of parenting is in remembering that my children are individuals, not extensions of or reflections upon myself. "Experiment" might be the wrong metaphor altogether. But why do I so often feel like a mad scientist?

--- Adam A. Wilcox

This week for families

The Rochester Children's Theatre opens its fall season --- and celebrates its 15th anniversary --- on Sunday, September 25, with Androcles and the Lion, the first show RCT ever produced. The shows are at Nazareth College Arts Center, 4245 East Avenue, at 2 and 4 p.m. There will be a birthday party, too, with balloons, cake, and crafts. Tickets are $10. 389-2170, www.rochesterchildrenstheatre.org