Ronin and Silas Banu are having a pretty special summer: between teething on raw potatoes and learning to walk in the Fort Courtyard, these twin one-year-old volunteers are having adventures that other modern toddlers won’t have. Interestingly, historic children probably wouldn’t either! “Twins were very uncommon in the fur-trade,” says their Mom, Laura, “It was just as likely that a woman would become pregnant with multiples, but very unlikely to carry them to term, or survive childbirth”. As a Costumed Historical Interpreter, Laura enjoys sharing stories about child-rearing in the fur-trade, and helps other mothers to appreciate the modern luxuries that we often take for granted: “If you think it’s hard to babyproof these days, try in 1846!” she laughs.
Laura considers the Park her “zen space”, a relaxing escape from her modern job as a teacher. After a few years volunteering on her own, she was excited to share her special place with her own children, and brought them for their first volunteer shift when they were just six weeks old, last summer. Silas and Ronin are among our youngest volunteers, but make a huge impact: “The boys have become minor celebrities on site. We meet people every day who have been looking forward to seeing them, especially guests who are twins themselves,” Laura laughs, “that is, when people don’t mistake them for props or dolls.”
Laura benefits from the support of a strong community, as fur-trade mothers would over 150 years ago. She’s happy to have many hands to corral her children, and the staff and other volunteers love the opportunity to play with the boys. She appreciates that this is such a safe space for them to be, “to grow up away from the demands of 2017…People thought I was crazy to bring them at 6 weeks but it was great; the other interpreters would take them and these are people I really trust, life long friends!”. In fact, Silas and Ronin met their babysitter, Renee at the Park, and Laura has received hand-me-downs from other parents, including baby moccasins. “It’s so great to have other volunteers in the same boat, to talk about kids and life, and to see my kids make great friends.”
Laura is excited to see her boys grow up at the Park, and to instill in them the importance of heritage and learn responsibility. “I love teaching kids about the past. Kids think it’s crazy to wash clothes on a washboard, or to survive without vacation or education. It gives them a reality check about how far we’ve come,” Laura shares. As a child of immigrants – her mom is from Scotland and dad from England – she believes it is important to understand the experience of the early residents of our city and to teach her children respect for their sacrifices and triumphs. “If we don’t share our past, we don’t know where we came from and can’t know where we’re going,” Laura says. She believes that the Park is the perfect place to share this experience: “you feel like you’re in another world, and can get them out of their shell in a safe environment.”
Laura encourages other families to think about volunteering and suggests starting them at a young age: “I’ve seen lots of families with shy kids become totally comfortable here. The benefit of having time to turn off and be with your kids means they develop all kinds of skills, like customer service.” Laura does credit her success with Ronin and Silas to her years of experience volunteering before they were born. She believes that understanding her role and getting comfortable with it before bringing the twins allows her to best teach them, and to know what to expect. And even then: “Expect the unexpected! Ronin was asleep in Married Men’s Quarters, when a musket was fired in the courtyard. Ronin jumped a foot into the air…and lay right back down, completely asleep!”
Are you ready for a life-changing experience with your kids? Think about volunteering at the Park!