A few months ago I was at a music festival in Cincinnati, Ohio, and about to watch one of my favorite bands, The National, perform one of my favorite albums, Boxer, from front to back. I somehow talked my way into the VIP section, squeezing into a sweet spot just off stage left. I had hit the bathroom a few minutes earlier, followed up with a quick stop at the booze tent for some red wine. I was set, fully prepared for what was sure to be one of the prime shows of my life.
Then I looked to my right and saw a guy holding his daughter, who I’m guessing was about 3. It was an adorable sight — he was clearly thrilled to share this special moment with his kid, and the little tyke gurgled excitedly while playfully pulling at the headphones that her daddy had preemptively placed over her ears to protect her hearing. How thoughtful!
Aw, that’s so sweet, I thought to myself. It’s so heartwarming to see this, though I can’t help noting that an even better way to protect your child’s hearing is to leave her at home. Also, it’s almost 9 p.m. — why isn’t she in bed? Didn’t you notice those bros smoking weed over there? My god, how irresponsible are you for exposing an innocent child to this, you monster? P.S. I hate you. Love, Steve.
As a concertgoer, my biggest pet peeve is when some cool dad or mom brings a small child to a show. Because kids don’t belong there! A kid at a rock show makes me feel self-conscious about the things I like to do at rock shows — drink, swear, scream my head off, dance awkwardly. But as a parent, I really loathe this practice.
When it comes to practically anything else, I don’t judge other parents. If I see a parent lose their cool at a screaming kid at the grocery store, I feel an immediate surge of empathy. I can only imagine the steady stream of misbehavior precluding THAT, I’ll wonder. Because I’ve been there. Every parent has. But taking a kid (let’s say under the age of 8) to a concert is such an epically (and in my mind obviously) misguided decision that I simply can’t abide it.
That’s a mistake on my part, and I apologize. This is another situation in which I should feel empathy. So, instead of being judgmental, I’m going to try to be helpful, and offer what I believe is prudent advice.
So, cool dads and moms at concerts everywhere, please hear my message rooted in love and understanding: Leave your damn kids at home. Your heart might be in the right place, but you are out of your mind if you think this will turn out well. Your kid won’t have fun. You won’t have fun. The people around you will have less fun. Just don’t do it.
As far as I can tell — again, I would never bring either of my beautiful children (ages 5 and 17 months) to a show, so I can only speculate — there are two reasons why parents do this. The first is that they want their kid to have “good” (i.e. their) taste in music, and they believe that exposing the little one to loud noises in a crowded space a couple of hours past their regular bedtime will achieve this objective, when in fact it will probably only traumatize them against loud noises and crowded spaces.
From time to time, I’ll hear from music fans who have recently become parents, and they’ll talk about the anxiety they feel over the music their kid will one day love. This derives from a positive instinct: If you love music, and see it as a force for good in the world, you also want your children to appreciate this wondrous art form.