Music has always been a big part of my family’s life. Before he was even on the outside, my son had heard more live music than some people hear in a lifetime.
When I was five months pregnant, I crammed myself into a sweaty van with my husband and three others for their band’s cross-country tour. Looking back, I can only assume that hormones had completely compromised my sense of judgment. Sure, I only had to request they pull over once throughout the 3,000 miles for me to vomit alongside the highway, but it was likely the most uncomfortable three weeks of my life.
While I can’t recommend taking that route, I do believe that some of the most enduring family memories center around enjoying music together. Especially live and in person. It doesn’t have to be a crazy ambitious undertaking the first time you bring kids to a concert. Take these few things into account and plan what could be the best night of the summer.
1 | Consider the artist
Clearly, not every concert is going to be kid-friendly. But that’s not to say once you have kids bringing them along means your only options involve eight-foot-tall Muppets. My kids have watched Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings absolutely crush it, danced in the pouring rain at a Michael Franti concert, and ogled Questlove’s skills in person.
It should go without saying, but if you wouldn’t listen to the artist’s album when your kids are around, pick a different show. (Also worth noting, eight-year-old me still hasn’t quite gotten over the embarrassment of sitting through Color Me Badd’s performance of their smash hit “I Wanna Sex You Up” with my father. Listen, I was only there for Paula Abdul.)
2 | Don’t bring the kids if you really want to let loose
Obviously I’m super pro bringing kids to see live music. But there are some concerts I’m just not willing to share, since bringing kids puts them first and my agenda dead last. While I’m not opposed to having a drink when I’m on mom duty, one is sort of the limit. And on some occasions, one is definitely not the amount I want to have.
I can’t even get my kids to zip it in the car for three and half minutes while I jam on some Lauryn Hill that popped up on the oldies station (WTF.) Pick an artist that you want to enjoy with the kids. Not in spite of them.
3 | Protect their hearing (and yours, too)
They already pretend they can’t hear you when you ask them to PLEASE PUT YOUR SHOES ON FOR THE FORTIETH TIME WE WERE SUPPOSED TO LEAVE TEN MINUTES AGO. Why make matters worse? For teeny-tinies (infants to about 18 months), these headband style earmuffs work great. Older kids can rock the more industrial style. Or, if they aren’t opposed to earplugs, we’ve found that the readily available moldable silicone kind work great and can fit in your pocket.
4 | Make a meet-up plan
Of course, the real plan is not to lose the people you came with. Especially the small ones. But if they are old enough to wander away, establish a contingency plan. First thing upon entering, designate a meet up spot in the event you get separated. Identify the security guards and maybe even take a minute to introduce yourselves. Make it clear to your kids that these are the folks to seek out if they can’t find you. Then tactfully remind them that you’re the one with cash in your pocket for snacks. That should help keep them close.
5 | Speaking of snacks…
Do not go hungry unless you want to explain that you spent their college fund at a pop concert. Most venues won’t allow you to bring food in, either, so fill them up as close to entering as possible. You can usually confirm the policies around what you can bring in on the venue’s website.
6 | Choose seats carefully
There will be lots of standing, even if it’s just waiting in line. Some venues will have the option to book assigned seats, which could be preferable. The crowd near the stage can get a little (or a lot) rowdy so it’s your call as to whether or not getting into the fray would be a good idea. Additionally, there may be lots of shoulder rides and whining about not being able to see. Expect to throw back a few Advil when you wake up the next morning wondering how you might have fallen off the back of a truck without noticing.
7 | Be prepared to answer questions your kids have never asked before
Like, “What’s that funny smell? Is there a skunk somewhere?” and “Did that lady forget to wear pants?” By that same token, expect them to overhear words they’ve only heard that one time you got gas at a truck stop (or got cut off in traffic. I’m not here to judge.) This could be a great jumping off point for a discussion about making good choices, or a chance to polish up your redirection skills. Your choice.
8 | Know everyone’s limits
First and foremost, be honest about how comfortable your kid is going to be in a loud, chaotic, crowded environment. Going to a concert is not necessarily an inexpensive experience and it would be a total bummer to have to bail because it was just too overwhelming.
Also, it’s safe to say that any concert you attend is going to end long after bedtime. Everyone’s bedtime. And chances are, the car isn’t parked right on the other side of the gate. Reserve enough stamina to actually make it back to where you’re going without someone threatening to “quit the family altogether.” (Not that I’m speaking from experience.)
If the artist isn’t a total jerk who chooses to hold the only song you (or your kid) wanted to hear until the encore, get the heck out of there the first time they leave the stage. Leaving before the flood of other concert-goers makes the whole exiting process a billion times smoother.
Have you taken your kids to any concerts yet? Who did you see?