Last fall, the popular all-male a capella singing group Straight No Chaser announced a Christmas show at the Benedum Center in December. I had been eagerly awaiting the announcement, and happily circled the date of the ticket sale on my calendar. I asked several fellow moms if they were interested in taking their families, most of whom were stunned that I planned to take my kids (age 12 and 9 at the time). One mother actually scoffed, “That seems like such a waste of money.”
Our family went and had a fantastic evening together. But those conversations got me thinking: my husband and I have been taking our kids to concerts and shows for several years. Why do we view those kinds of events as a vital part of our kids’ upbringing? Here’s what we came up with…
We’re developing some important life skills.
Dressing appropriately, sitting still and behaving in public are abilities that come with repetition, the same way kids practice sports or musical instruments. We view these events as opportunities to practice manners and observe more grown-up behaviors. It’s unfair to expect your kid to get dressed in fancy clothes and sit quietly at a wedding or lengthy Christmas Eve religious service if they only have to do so once a year.
We also consider these events as opportunities to put down the electronic devices – great entertainment doesn’t always have to come from a screen, right? Look kids, those are actual humans!
Having kids doesn’t meaning abandoning all of our pre-kid fun.
My husband and I liked these kinds of activities before we had children, so what’s up with the expectation that we should just ignore our interests now that we have kids? We use judgment to select shows that are appropriate – no wine tastings or raunchy comedians, of course, but just because we have kids doesn’t mean our family is committed to decades of nothing but Pixar movies and Disney on Ice. In fact, part of the fun has been introducing our kids to artists or shows that we liked before they came along, and now enjoying them together.
We disagree with “it’s too expensive” and “they won’t remember.”
If these concerns are what’s holding you back, then why did you drop hundreds of dollars on your 2-year old’s birthday party at Gymboree? Or take him to Disney World when he was 4? Those are both very expensive and he won’t remember either one. But I’ll wager that you remember those events, which is likely why you thought they were important things to do. Why is it any different if my kids are a little older, or that the event is a concert instead of a birthday party at a trampoline park?
We waited until our kids were around 7 years old to start taking them to these sorts of events, which I believe is old enough to remember – or at least old enough to start some great conversations (see below). And we’re willing to skip some movies or other nights out in exchange for these special nights together.
We expose our kids to new ideas.
Last winter, we took our kids to see 2Cellos at Heinz Hall. If you’re not familiar with them, they are two (very good looking, not that I noticed!) men from Croatia who play everything from Beethoven to Guns ‘n’ Roses to Michael Jackson on nothing but their two cellos. It was a stunning evening that gave us lots to talk about: how long do you think they had to practice to become that good? How much do they depend on each other? What did you think when one of them said there aren’t enough musical instruments in Croatia for every child to have one?
When we took the kids to see the Broadway tour of Finding Neverland this fall, we had similar conversations: did you know that kids could have such a big part in a professional show? Do you think they get nervous before they sing? When do you think they go to school? Would it be hard to travel all the time?
We genuinely enjoy spending time with our kids and sharing new experiences with them.
Amazingly, our kids are growing into people that we like as well as love. My husband and I are privileged to be entrusted with these two particular souls, and the years are flying by. These events are special times for our family, and they hopefully draw us closer to each other through our shared experiences.
This particular point was also a topic in a recent parental custody dispute. In 2015, a New Jersey woman was accused of bad parenting by her ex-husband after she took their 11-year old daughter to a Pink concert. The case went to the New Jersey Superior Court, where the judge ruled with this particularly eloquent statement:
“Perhaps most important, however, is the fact that [the daughter] enjoyed a parent/child night out together, sharing an experience that 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.”
Next up for us: James Taylor, this July. I bought the tickets this morning. They were fairly expensive, but our family thinks they are worth a lot more than what I paid for them.