Circus Family Lives Under the Big Tent

Filed under: In The News, Weird But True

Get up, have breakfast, feed the tigers. The routine is the same but the town and city is always changing for this family of fifth-generation circus performers.

Daniel Raffo, originally from Argentina, is the tiger trainer for Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Wife Andrea performs aerial ballet, as did both her mother and grandmother. Davian, their 4-year-old son, is in training for something, I'm sure, but for now he's content to stay home with mom and dad. Home being, of course, a trailer within whiffing-distance of the tiger cage.

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So just what does a typical day look like for this circus family? It's pretty low-key, actually. Daniel and Andrea practice their routines in the morning, perform their respective acts and then settle down for dinner and TV. Then, like the rest of us, they get up the next morning and do the whole thing over again.

The circus life is a 24-hour-a-day job, but that doesn't mean it's not child-friendly. Families tend to be tight-knit. There's a one-room school tent, pitched on every stop of the show, where kids are taught by a licensed teacher who travels with the troupe. Sister Dorothy Fabritze, a nun and full-time circus worker (backstage crew, opening and closing the curtain), is along for the ride for their spiritual needs.

The big top is also big on real-world learning. Children grow up surrounded by circus professionals from 32 countries, and there's always another town to explore. "You can see all these different places and what it looks like," said Katherine Stuart, 8, the daughter of Ringling's general manager, Mike Stuart. "I also wanted to know what each state looked like, so I get to do it."

Sounds special and full of surprises, but Davian, Katherine and the other circus kids are surely missing out on something -- and it's not the option of running away to join the circus. I'm talking about friends, a permanent home and a "traditional" lifestyle.

What do you think? Is this kind of mobile and unconventional lifestyle appropriate or healthy for young kids?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.