Mommie Dearest: Taking Your Kid To A Concert Is Not Bad Parenting
It’s no secret that there are tons of judgmental assholes out there when it comes to parenting. Everyone is doing something wrong, starting all the way from how you birthed your baby to how you feed her, clothe her, get her to sleep, educate her, and more. But now, apparently, you can be taken to court for the type of music experiences you expose her to. Thankfully, those in the position to truly judge — i.e. actual Superior Court judges — have common sense and will shut it down.
A New Jersey mother was accused of bad parenting by her ex-husband for taking their 11-year-old daughter to a Pink concert. While Pink may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s beyond a little excessive to deem it bad parenting. And, I’m not the only one who thinks so. New Jersey Superior Court Judge Lawrence R. Jones ruled that the mother in question “in no way, shape or form exceeded the boundaries of reasonable parental judgment.”
Since this case involved disputing divorced parents, I can only imagine the charges were made more for vindictive purposes than true concern over parenting. However, I am certain that there are still folks out there who clutch their pearls over the thought of parents taking their kids to see that rock and or roll music. But maybe I’m a little bit biased…
You see, my son has been seeing live music since, well, since he was in utero. He went to his first festival at four months old, rocking out to Michael Franti, Phil Lesh & Friends, Robert Randolph and the Family band and more. Pre-kid, my husband and I were avid concert-goers, attending as many concerts and festivals a year as funds and vacation days would allow. Sure, there was a bit of a learning curve when it came to doing it properly with a kid, but we quickly learned it wasn’t impossible, and our son loved it as well.
Exposing your children to music early and often is a great thing (and now: court approved!), and anyone who would question your parenting because of that clearly enjoys kicking rocks for fun and isn’t worth sweating over. In the 8 years my son has been around, he has seen Phish play at Fenway Park in Boston, gotten to experience a New Year’s eve concert from a box at Madison Square Garden (although to be fair, he slept through most of the show after the first few songs), and experience the eclectic music of Matisyahu, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, My Morning Jacket, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Girl Talk, and more, all before the age of five. Today, he has a super varied taste in music from radio pop to jam bands, jazz and classic rock, and plays the drums (well, I might add, proud mom that I am).
However, despite all the benefits to taking your kid to a concert, there are also definitely some things to keep in mind:
Kids come first. While back in the day it was just me and my man, and there wasn’t much to think about beyond enjoying the music. When I take my son to a show, he comes first no matter what. That means that when he was a baby, if he was upset or not into it, and wouldn’t settle down, we would leave. It’s never worth it to have your kid cranky spoiling it for others around you. It also means that you probably won’t party as much as you’re used to, if you’re into that sort of thing. If you’re taking on the responsibility of bringing a kid, you need to be aware of whatever is going on.
Be prepared. I’m an over-preparer and this has always helped when taking the kid to concerts. Pack a bag with snacks, water (security is much more lax when you have a baby or kid in tow and I’ve never really had a problem bringing in kid friendly food), noise-cancelling headphones, wet wipes, an extra set of clothes, glow sticks, bubbles, and more snacks.
Expect the unexpected. Taking my son to concerts and festivals has opened up a new world of music and fun to him, but it’s also presented us with some chances to talk about things like “Why is that person running around naked?” or “Why is everyone smoking? Don’t they know it is bad for them?” There is definitely the concern around drugs and alcohol when it comes to concerts, but I have found that most concert goers are usually really happy to see kids and beyond some accidentally spilled beer from an overzealous person getting their groove on, we’ve never really had any substantial issues in that regard. Most folks spot the kid and walk a few feet away to indulge in whatever they’re into. I should also note that for the most part, we stick to outdoor venues so as not to expose little lungs to lots of smoke.
Have fun. Experiencing a concert with your child is a special time. Watching them take in the sights and sounds is pretty magical and can help you remember why you enjoy going to concerts in the first place.
And, most concerts and festivals today recognize that parents will be bringing kids and beyond offering kid-priced tickets, many offer family friendly camping spots, kid activities, and even side stages just for families. It seems like the music industry is catching on that concerts can truly be a family experience, and now, they are officially been deemed so!
Judge Jones wrapped up his ruling in the New Jersey case, writing: “Perhaps most important, however, is the fact that [the daughter] enjoyed a parent/child night out together, sharing an experience which was clearly very important to the child in her young life. In this day and age, it is easy for parents to put off important bonding experiences with their children until a tomorrow which simply never comes. The positive value of this experience is not diluted in any fashion merely because there may have been some incidental curse words or allegedly suggestive themes during some of the songs at the concert.”