It was pushing 10 o’clock and it was way past her bedtime. But the little girl (probably around 4 years old) was at least an hour away from being tucked into bed. Instead, she was draped across her daddy, sound asleep, with little pink headphones affixed to her ears to muffle the noise from the band at the Royal Oak Music Theatre.
To me, it was adorable. To my friend, it was terrible.
“That poor little girl is so tired! Why would her parents have her at a concert this late?” she groused.
I pointed out that it wasn’t exactly a raucous crowd. There was no mosh pit or electric guitar solos. In fact, the biggest cheers rang out when the headliner, an Irish folk singer named Glen Hansard, sang his most famous song, a soft, lilting melody called “Falling Slowly” – which in title and composition seemed like the perfect lullaby for an exhausted 4-year-old.
My friend wasn’t buying it.
To her, these parents were selfish. It was a Tuesday night concert with an act that had no particular appeal to children. The parents were putting their desires before the needs of their child.
I didn’t see it in such black-and-white terms. For one, I reject the idea that people forfeit the right to have personal interests and, yes, desires once they become parents. That doesn’t mean parents don’t have to make sacrifices. Of course they do. But it also doesn’t mean that sacrificing should be the default. And that gets me to the second half of my friend’s assessment – that the child was being harmed. I saw a child who was passed between her parents all night, dancing with her mom for certain songs or perched on her dad’s shoulders so she could see above the crowd. She was singing and smiling before she was sleeping.
I left the show that night convinced that more parents should take their kids (even little ones) to concerts that aren’t necessarily targeted to them. But kid concerts too. Just more concerts. The more live musical events a child attends, the better, in my book. To me there is something spiritual and soul-cleansing about hearing live music – and shouldn’t we want kids to experience that right from the start?
In this month’s cover story, we offer some guidance to taking your kids to concerts – from babies to teens. There are some pitfalls, to be sure. And some concerts aren’t kid-appropriate. We help you navigate the whole band of questions you may have, so you and your kids will be whistling a sweet tune.