A Dad Balances Circus and Family Life

Human cannonball Jon Weiss tells how he balances circus and family life.
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Marc Royce

For many parents, managing a house full of kids feels like running a three-ring circus. But for Jon Weiss, life really is a circus. Weiss is shot out of a cannon as the finale of every performance of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus. He travels in a mobile home 50 weeks out of the year with his wife, Laura (a dancer in the show), and their children, Jonny, 6, Nicole, 3, and Max, 11 months. We asked Weiss how he's able to combine his risky job and the protective role of parent.

Do your kids get nervous watching your act?

Jonny watches the show only once in a while. He gets bored and goes back to our dressing room to play. Nicole loves it; I can hear her giggling during my performance. They rarely worry, since it's just what Daddy does. Plus, I'm dressed as a clown for the show, so maybe that makes it less scary.

How do you convey the importance of safety?

We've had to teach our kids to watch out for elephants, the floats, and all the traffic backstage. They've never done anything too outrageous, though my son likes to climb on the rigging. I let him go up to a certain point, and then he has to come down. As a parent, you have to set limits.

Does your job allow you to spend a lot of time with your family?

The circus is a great place for families. Ringling has a daycare center, a nursery, and a private teacher who travels on the road. Plus, my performance doesn't take the whole day, so I can visit my wife and kids in between acts. When the children get older, I know we'll have to settle down somewhere and run away from the circus! But I love what I do and that we have so much time together. Right now, I wouldn't trade that for anything.

Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the circus at www.ringling.com. You can also find show dates in your area and buy tickets online

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Copyright © 2001. Reprinted with permission from the February 2001 issue of Child magazine.

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