A week ago Ed Fugit, the best man at my wedding and my brother-from-another-mother, emailed me a link to an article chastising hipster parents who insist on bringing their kids to concerts.
“Would read your take on this in Flatland…,” Fugit said of the story, written by Steven Hyden.
OK, I’ll bite.
We’ve all seen the practice on trial here – parents toting their youngsters around concerts and festivals armed with some form of hearing protection. Hyden, who is a parent himself, offered misguided theories on why couples do this as well as some some woefully unsolicited advice to those same parents.
As a person who frequents live music, who also happens to be a parent, when I see young children at rock shows, I usually just see some happy parents and happy children. My interactions are minimal. I’ll try my best to quietly nod to the parents in proud solidarity and give the kids a smile or thumbs up to let them know that they are welcome in this strange, loud place.
You know what I do then? I forget they exist and watch the band I came to see.
Not Hyden. When he sees young ones at shows, he spends the remainder of the set working himself into a healthy froth about why the kids aren’t asleep and why the parents are exposing their kids to all manner of atrocities one encounters at a concert. And all of this ruins his experience at the show.
“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,” Hyden writes.
My immediate response to his article – and frankly to anyone who has the audacity to give advice to another parent – is this: Fine, you’re a parent too. You do you. Now kindly shove it up your Red Rocks.
I grew up in a music household. My parents had an absolute gem of a record collection. My father played live music and dragged me along to all types of weird festivals and live shows where I met goofy muppet people and sniffed strange smells.
Admittedly, I was around music so much as a child that I initially resisted it. But I would be a fool if I didn’t credit those years with forming the very adoration of music that I now proudly carry to every concert. So to me, sharing live music with children is a beautiful practice and a necessary step to imparting that love to the next generation.
“The source of my visceral irritation in situations like this is related to the…reason why I think parents take their kids to concerts, which is vanity,” Hyden writes. “You want to be viewed as the kind of parent who has raised a kid who is already a pint-sized connoisseur, because that clearly reflects back on you as a person who isn’t lame like most parents.”
Man, that’s dark. If I were to break it down, I can identify three distinct reasons I take my kids to concerts: 1) I like the music. 2) I want to share that music with my children. 3) I have an obligation as a parent to expose my kids to as much art and culture as possible, and mine is as good a place to start as any.
So my kids see live music for the same reason I have them put on a seatbelt, or teach them how to read, or take them on vacations, or try (and fail) to get them to eat vegetables – because it’s good for them, dammit.
But I get it. A lot of times a rock show is not an ideal place for children. Excessive drinking, pot smoke, loud noises, and late nights typically come with the territory. Certainly those are the types of things even mildly responsible parents should avoid when engaging in family time.
“[Parents] 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,” Hyden argues.
Well, we’d be doing our kids a grave disservice if fear of traumatization dictated our activities.
I’ve watched toddlers cry in abject horror after getting their first taste of competitive vigor during a soccer game. I’ve seen children desperately scream for their exiting parents at drop-off on the first day of kindergarten. I’ve seen a kid pee through his evergreen-tree costume during the first number of the Christmas pageant. And though all of these moments were jarring, I didn’t see any of those parents as negligent. That’s because those experiences are simply part of having a well-rounded upbringing. Why should music be any different?
With that in mind, focusing on the rather impotent cons in Hyden’s article seems futile when presented with the type of towering pros I’ve actually witnessed with my own kids. Like the beaming smile I saw flash across my son’s face during an epic drum solo at a recent show. Or the frozen awe I saw on my daughter’s face as she watched colorful dancers frolic amongst the brights lights of the stage at another.
With such an abundance of accessible, music-sourced joy, focusing on the few miniscule drawbacks of live music is the type of glass-half-empty mindset that will inevitably turn your kids into boring people.
And from my side of that street, that’s the sort of parenting that’s truly unforgivable.
All that being said, rock shows may not be right for you and your family. And that’s fine. If that’s the case, here’s a list of excellent, family-oriented bands and music events you and your kids can enjoy together.
Drum Safari | Various Locations
Mr. Stinky Feet | Various Locations | performing next at Village Fest
Funky Mama | Various Locations | performing next at Village Fest
H3TV | Various Locations
KC Riverfest | Berkley Riverfront Park | July 4
Village Fest | Harmon Park | July 4
Ethnic Enrichment Festival | Swope Park | August 17-19
Plaza Art Fair | Country Club Plaza | September 21-23
Truman Heritage Festival | Grandview Amphitheater| May 2019
Making Movies Carnaval | Knuckleheads | June 2019
— Dan Calderon is Kansas City native, an attorney, and contributor to Flatland. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @dansascity.
This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Steven Hyden’s name.