The Family That Rocks Together: Taking Kids to Concerts
True Confessions of a Rock'n'Roll Mama
In the previous century B.C. (Before Children), I worked at a rock radio station where free tickets to great concerts meant more to me than my weekly paycheck. I was front row, dead center for U2, The Clash, Tina Turner, Sting, Bonnie Raitt, and Bruce Springsteen, to name but a few. In fact, I loved The Boss so dearly I trailed him from Boston to Providence to Montreal (and back).
Then kids came: Time to face the music and lower the volume. I went from arena rock shows to Raffi tapes in the car. Fortunately, the kids felt sorry for me and grew up just enough that we could share a few precious musical moments. It's not as if we went from "Puff the Magic Dragon" to Puff Daddy. But when it's our turn to carpool, we rock to bands like Smashmouth, Barenaked Ladies, and the Goo Goo Dolls.
It's Only Rock'n'Roll, But We Like It
What a difference a generation makes: For most of us raising kids today, rock music was symbolic of a cultural and political divide that characterized the nation of our youth. Dad voted for Nixon and mellowed out on martinis while watching Lawrence Welk. Big brother protested the Vietnam War and got stoned at Grateful Dead concerts. Would father and son listen to the same radio station? Never.
But the times, have been a-changin'. For better or worse, pop music no longer provides the soundtrack for street protest or familial dissent. Many of today's bands have decidedly cross-generational appeal. And mid-life music fans are eager to share the musical fervor of their youth with the youth of their own.
"I wanted them to experience a concert with me before they experienced it on their own as teenagers," said Bob W., a father who took 12-year-old Sara and 10-year-old Madeline to an all-day, all-ages rock festival in Boston. "Back when I went to concerts, it was totally about taking drugs, but that's changed now."
"I think you do take a chance kids are going to be exposed to things like condoms being passed out," said Anne B., who took her two children to see a recent concert by Santana and Macy Gray where Planned Parenthood distributed "free samples" in the arena. "But they're going to have to learn about this stuff anyway."
For rock fan-turned-Mom Lori P., taking kids to concerts represents a natural evolution.
"Several generations have now grown up with it," she mused at an outdoor concert, as the band Vertical Horizon played in the background. "For my mother, the music was brand new and exciting. For her mother, it was evil. Today my kids see it doesn't matter what age you are; we can all like the same music."
Tips on Taking the Kids
Follow Your Child. Rock concerts can be exhausting or exhilarating experiences for children and adults alike. Before you buy tickets, ask: Does your child hate crowds or love them? Is he sensitive to sound or pretty tolerant of noise? How will she handle a long line at a port-a-potty?
Know the Bands. Some artists can't get through a set without using profane language or gestures. "Parents should know the playground their children are playing in," says family therapist Carleton Kendrick. "Concerts are similar; parents need to know how the bands will perform, and what lyrics they'll sing."
Respond to Lewd, Crude, and Rude. If you decide to attend a concert, have a "rapid response" plan in place in the event your child hears obscenities or witnesses vulgar behavior. Parents need to help kids distinguish between the flamboyant behavior of a rock star on stage and the way the rest of us act in real life. "You might say something like, 'Sometimes rock stars act like that as part of their show, but they wouldn't talk that way to you when signing autographs,'" suggests Kendrick.
Talk Values, Avoid Judgements. DO tell kids what bothers you during a show, advises Kendrick, with comments such as, "I like their music, but I wish they wouldn't use the F-word so often." DON'T send mixed messages by taking kids to a concert and then threatening them with statements like, "Don't you dare think you can act like that." Ask questions instead: "Why do you think he's behaving that way? Do you know kids who act like that?"
Avoid Tears, Protect the Ears. It may sound obvious, but it bears repeating: Make sure your child knows what to do if he gets separated from you. And don't forget the earplugs! Young ears need protection.
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