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Leave the Kids at Home!

1332228674_151ff30756Life changes after kids, but we try to lead a life that is inclusive and one that exposes our little ones to different experiences.  When it comes to family-friendly activities,  Portland cannot be beat.  And even better?  You can barely go wrong with any of the events that's offered all summer long.  Or can you? 

Recently, we attended the Oregon Symphony Outdoor concert.  A much touted family-friendly event.  Even the announcers mentioned it twice during the program.  But then again, we were an island of little energetic boys in a sea of adults and people who could sit still and remain quite during the performance.  As soon as the program started, our little guys gushed with excitement.  It didn't help that Carter and his buddy Andrew fed off each others energy level.  Amidst the glares, really only from the couple in front of us, we tried to listen to the music and watch the dancers.  It was a bit hard at first to enjoy the music and picnicking with our families as we struggled to hush and calm down our 4 year olds every 10 seconds.  At some point, I realized that it wasn't our problem.  It was an outdoor concert, and that it was intended for all to enjoy.  To expect a couple of 4 year olds to sit in complete silence is terribly unrealistic.  Perhaps we should have tried to explain that to the man sitting in front of us.  I opted for quietly threatening under my breath that if he glared at us one more time, I would take a picture of him and post about it on urbanMamas.  Ha!  Don't you mess with an urbanMama, especially one with a camera.  As much as I wanted to do this, I rationalized it was petty.

Needless to say, I was beside myself when I happened upon this great photo in Shetha's collection of pictures of our outing.  And would you believe that she accidentally caught the man in "half glare"? Just curious how others deal with public scrutiny.  Would you have said something?  Have you felt the rift between families and non-families out in public?


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I definitely would have said something. I "say something" all the time, which drives my husband nuts because he doesn't like confrontation. But I usually try to speak up right away before tensions get too high and the conversation has a chance to turn adversarial.

Great picture. It captures the dilemma perfectly, and just makes me want to stand my ground even more. I'm my child's advocate!!

This is a funny topic...we also went to a Symphony concert a few weeks ago with a couple of other families and we all talked about how much we should really bother trying to keep our kids seated and relatively quiet. We purposely sat all the way at the back of the crowd, knowing that the kids would never sit still or be quiet, but sure enough, it seemed as though everyone around us were couples without children. The couple in front of us had their cute little short picnic table set up, wine, brie & crackers and fruit all set out, and they sat quietly with their dogs cuddled next to them while our kids literally ran circles around them! They were really good sports and never said a word, maybe because they heard all of us constantly asking our kids to settle down...What's more annoying, the excited kids running around and playing, or their mamas hollering at them to sit down and be quiet? Now that I have an infant strapped to me at all times, and cant always be right there to micro-manage Anders, I find myself hollering more and I'm really trying to be mindful about it--I really dont want to be that mom heard screaming at her kids all the way across the park!

I've been on both ends of the dilemma--the person trying to enjoy an event while being distracted by kids, and the mama trying to enjoy an event with her kids. I guess the whole thing hinges on the type of event, and whether the kids are acting appropriately. If an event is, like the one you described, billed as "family friendly," then a little age-appropriate frolicking should be just fine.

The "family friendly" designation shouldn't be an invitation for kids to take over and disrupt other people's enjoyment, but it doesn't sound like your clan was doing that. They were just...being kids. And for pete's sake, how are they ever supposed to learn to enjoy anything more highbrow than Spongebob if we don't expose them to it?

I think it depends on the venue. If your kids are disturbing other folks in an outdoor symphony type setting, then yes, I think it's the parents' job to get up and take turns walking around with the kids. Yes, you miss some of the event but I think it's important to be considerate of both the kids and other folks. I think that it's so important to teach children that their good time doesn't trump everyone else's.

If I put my little nickles together to go someplace pricier than Dalo's or Pause, I don't want to see/hear running screaming toddlers. My little one went everywhere because I was a single mama, but she went through periods where she was not okay in restaturants nicer than Applebee's or Lyon's, where I expect some tolerance of noisy children. Four was particularly difficult age, which was baffling because at 2 1/2 -3 she was an angel in restaurants.

I think children learn how to be at the theatre, movies, ballet, by actually going and experiencing what the culture and mores are around behavior in those settings. And it may take awhile before they can or should sit through a whole performance. So the parent has to do increments. Yes, it is inconvenient to the parent but it's part of the learning curve.

I'm probably less patient than most, because I often didn't have a choice wrt childcare alternatives. I lived in a decidely unchild-friendly place, so people were often upset that my sweet pea was even breathing the same air. In those cases, I put on my breastplate and picked up the sword.

I agree with your instincts - this is an outdoor concert for ALL to enjoy. My husband and I have season tickets to the Symphony (date nights!) but we take our boys to the outdoor concerts. What better way to foster a love for classical music in young children?

I think your children behaved in a totally appropriate way at a family event. I would argue that many adults don't act so well - the couple who sits in front of us at the symphony whispers loudly throughout the concerts. The wife will often do the crossword puzzle and ask her husband for clues. Sometimes she even cleans her contact lenses during the performance, holding a lens on her tongue while she squirts the cleaning solution into a little jar. And don't get me started on the snacks that she brings in ziploc bags. Their behavior merits a glare!

I've certainly been there a thousand times! I agree that it's venue-related. If a person is going to an outdoor concert or other event that clearly geared towards the idea of family attendance (ESPECIALLY if it's free!), they should know that children will be there when they set up their picnic blankets! to be angry about children dancing and chatting would be as ridiculous as being upset because a kid got too excited at a parade. it's outside, and free, for goodness' sake.

it's certainly another thing altogether if it's an inside-voice sort of performance (i.e. the parent bringing a young child to a late-night rated-R movie... or a concert at a concert hall). then the audience has an expectation of best-behavior.

I think the question becomes more interesting in an environment like a child-friendly coffee shop, say one that's stocked with mini-cupcakes, sippie cups, and a big box of toys. clearly the owners meant for children to come with their parents! but it's not always so cool with the baristas, or the customers.

I've started to remove certain coffee shops from my most-frequented list due to withering glances or stern comments handed down by baristas and customers who were clearly NOT hip to the child-friendly vibe. and in my own neighborhood coffee shop, I tolerate the occasional impatient customer with the knowledge that the baristas and owners clearly love my children and welcome our money ;).

Also, I try to keep in the backyard with the kids, figuring that if anyone else comes on out with us and doesn't like our noise, they can find a seat inside!

I've had experiences where I have felt the need to speak up. I was with another mama at Old Spaghetti Factory, of all places, when the other mama's 18 month old became pretty noisy. She was trying to work with him on his behavior, when a man who had been giving us little mini glares since we walked in turned and yelled at my friend, "Take care of it already!" We were so shocked. My first response to him was "that was rude!" and then my friend and I told him that if you go to Spaghetti factory, you find children's menus, high chairs, they give you crayons upon seating, so obviously children are expected here, and if you want peace and quiet, go to a place where you are not going to ALWAYS be surrounded by rambunctious children! I was furious. I told that story for weeks. I do agree, however, that I am more comfortable when I am with a mama who at least APPEARS to be "doing something about it" rather than just letting junior scream and whack his spoon on the table. I am a little overcautious with my child, and tend to walk her away from the dining room when she gets noisy and out of control, but I don't think that is always the answer. I have had many older adults come up to me and friends after a particularly loud meal out, and say how fondly they were watching our table and remembering how it was for them (read: glad it's us now and not them!).

I believe that child friendly does not mean please bring your children and allow them to behave as if this is your own home. I will never visit Laurelwood again because of parents who think because there is a play area they can ingore their rambunctious child and expect the whole restaurant to adapt to constant screaming and yelling. If I see parents attempting to reign in their kiddos it is not too bad, but that is not always the case.

I have an 11 month old and I hope to teach her to behave in public with well supervised events and experiences. There will always be nincompoops (parents and non-parents alike)who think the world revolves around them hopefully though when the time comes I can assess each situation without becoming a roaring mommy bear.

It's a tricky situation, to be sure - but I have to say I err on the side that says that even though kids may be welcome, a certain standard of behavior that's respectful of everyone else there still should be followed - in other words, family friendly shouldn't mean we've now set a really low bar, behavior-wise.

It's easier now for me, 'cause I have older kids - but when they were little and full of energy, I'd still work with them on how we *all* need to behave in public so that *everyone* can have a good time. And that running all over our neighbor's blanket probably isn't his idea of fun. And if we needed to leave? We left.

Finally, count me in as a non-Laurelwood customer after witnessing too many episodes of sheer mayhem - Connie's experience matches mine to a t.

Oh, and - I'm by no means a rigid or controlling parent (just ask my kids!) - I just know that if it's setting *my* teeth on edge, the non-parents in the crowd must be going nuts already!

Family friendly definitely means "kids welcome", and that implies a certain ... relaxed etiquette? However, I agree with the other comments that these events are not only wonderful for exposing children to new events, but also teaching them about what's polite. Sounds like you tried your best. My approach would be a)sitting at the back; b) telling my kids they have 10 minutes (or whatever) to run around like crazy, and when the music started it would be time to quiet down; c) engaging them in listening - "Do you hear the violins?" "Do you see the dancing? What color is that costume?" etc. (As an aside - does anyone know where the plays in the park, specifically for kids, happen around here? I know I've run across it before!)

Years ago I went to an outdoor symphony in another town. A yakky, big voiced, and somewhat self absorbed colleague of my husband was there. After half an hour, a woman came up to our blanket and politely asked her if she could stop talking during the quiet passages. The colleague just stared at her - when the woman finally turned to walk away, the colleague said, loudly, "How rude!"

I've long since given up on expecting to hear any music at an outdoor concerts because of all the adult talking. But not everyone has given up. A concert for everyone to enjoy is harder to enjoy if you can't actually hear the concert. I imagine glaring man would probably be perfectly family friendly if he were sitting next to a quietly gurgling infant or an enraptured eight year old.

Not long ago, we were on a small commuter jet, with little room between the rows. The man sitting in front of my husband and toddler turned around and asked if we could flip her carseat backward so she wouldn't kick the back of his seat. It wasn't possible. Plus, my husband had spent a great deal of the flight holding her legs to try to keep her from kicking - without even being asked. I felt like jumping up and ripping the stranger's head off, even though he had been basically polite. God bless my justice-minded husband, who then spent ten minutes pushing and pulling and fighting with the carseat so her legs could no longer reach his seatback.

Why was I so angry at a stranger just for telling me that my child was making his life harder? We were ruining his flight - and I was prepared never to forgive him for it.

Please keep your very young children and the elderly at home, (or anywhere out of my sight,) as they are not wage earners and have no place in public life. Thank you.
No but really, I love the photo with that guy's glaring face in it! Oh my god...that is essentially the face I have had glaring at me for the last five years-Caught on film. *Hi!* Indeed, I have found it difficult to give my children practice at behaving in a civil manner in their community when they are only allowed at home, at school, and at Laurelwood.
Sorry for all the joking, I really can't help myself. I do feel that children should be included in more aspects of society, and have all the rights and responsibilities that go along with it. Then if people are still uncomfortable, they can stay at home with a sitter.

We need humor and sarcasm to survive these early years. I do cringe about thinking that families should sit in the way back for fear of intruding on other's experiences. Maybe we should give parents and their children a break because that child that's showing public displays of discontent could be any one of ours. We've all been there before!

Also, one of my favorite new places to go is IKEA. They have everything from family friendly parking (parking spots close by the store for families) to Smaland (free childcare) to family friendly bathrooms. Now that's one place that's utterly chaotic but feels so welcoming! They make me feel special for bringing my kids along.

Hilarious, Fionnsnana!

I'm a kid chaser. So far, he doesn't do much but run. Which is annoying to everyone, I'm sure. Annoying that I follow him around everywhere when I should be less of a helicoptor. And annoying when I don't follow him around, and should be more on top of things. Egh. Whatever, people.

I had a bad experience at Old Spaghetti Factory as well. My then 14 mo son was practicing his noodle eating, which meant a saucy face and spilled pasta, while a woman gave us the evil eye and made comments about how disgusting my child was. I didn't respond to her at all because really I didn't see the need, we weren't doing anything wrong. But, then, my son was far too young to understand what she was saying, and didn't realize that her looks and comments were designed to be hurtful. As he gets older, however, I have a feeling I'll become more vocal just so that my son knows that we're together in everything. And of course, we'll talk about how other people are judgmental based on their own past experiences which totally color how they interpret other people's actions. As we all know, not all people react to loud or quiet or demure or intense children the same. We each bring our own baggage to each child. And sometimes we teach them (whether they are ours or a strangers) to seek and desire approval from strangers, much to that child's detriment.

oops, I don't think I was clear. I now tend to avoid events that will result in my child being exposed to a lot of negativity. As righteous as I feel about his human rights, I don't really want to expose him to the evil eye on purpose. That said, there are plenty of events that I figure we'll be okay at, but will still result in judgment from strangers. I'll deal with that as it comes. As far as I'm concerned, my priority is to help my son deal with the unpredictable craziness that is the mass public. Maybe when he is 10 we will discuss the finer points of social interaction, but before then I will be trying to help him with more of the basics. Like why it is "okay" for an older person to loudly criticize a complete stranger, buy why it is wrong to yell exuberantly about a concert that is just so wonderful that a simple "yip" will not do.

One of my fondest memories is when our oldest son was only 2 and we went to a family-friendly restaurant (and I do mean family friendly, this was Red Robin - not gourmet but kids are VERY welcome) so as not to be disturbing to others. He was two, you know, not the calmest age for many kiddos.

He started getting a little hyper and we were calmly settling him down...he wasn't doing anything much at all other than wanting to get out of his seat and we were not letting him and he was fussing. Not yelling, just fussing.

A man nearby said, "next time get a sitter."
Really! He said that at Red Robin, over virtually nothing.
A frail looking elderly woman at the table next to him yelled at him, "Oh go to hell!! You're too young to be such a grump!!"
Everyone who heard was just busting up laughing. It was awesome.

Peggy, that is a hilarious story. Hope you don't mind: I posted it on my personal blog (linked above). It was too good not to pass on!

This hits very close to home for me as I try EXTREMELY hard to make sure my son isn't bothering anyone when we're in public, almost to the point of feeling apologetic for having a kid! Then I remind myself how much I love him, how proud I am that he is such a compassionate human being and that the people around me will survive, even if we've ruined their dinner or outdoor concert.

Actually, I don't think it's the kids who ruin it for them, I think they ruin it for themselves. If you just look at the lines on these people's foreheads, and if you got a chance to read their medical records, I can tell you, I think they ruin a lot of things for themselves. They just need a good excuse.

Hau, you didn't do a thing wrong. It was an OUTDOOR CONCERT AT A *PARK* - a public place where people, esp. kids, tend to congregate even when there isn't a concert. I'm still sorta stunned by the reaction of that man.

The flipside of this is that there are certainly places where you have a reasonable expectation of being child-free. Once before I had a kid, I'd made plans w/ a girlfriend to meet for dinner at a fancypants, pricey restaurant. My friend's husband became ill at the last moment & so wasn't up to babysitting their then-toddler. Instead of cancelling outright or calling me to say what was up so that we could change our plans, my friend simply brought her very active & loud toddler to this very quiet, dimly-lit place. Hilarity (except, not really) ensued. I was pretty mortified - the other folks there had clearly paid for what they assumed was going to be the privilege of a quiet evening, and instead here was this charming young lad banging on the glass tabletop w/ every utensil within reach, and screeching proudly. Guess my friend needed the night out that badly????

Sorry, but I recently went to one of the symphony's outdoor concerts. We could not hear a single thing due to all the rambunctious children around us. It's one thing to have a few disruptions, but seriously, my husband leaned over at one point and said, "are they playing anything right now?" We could only tell by the violin bows moving that they were. We had to leave after two pieces because it really was pointless to stay. Additionally, all the families around us were using this as a social gathering - chatting and laughing - while the rest of us struggled to attend a concert. I found it very inconsiderate of the parents. I mean, if you're kids are running around screaming and your chatting with all your friends, move to another area because you obviously aren't there to enjoy a concert.

Does the argument really have to be "my kids can do whatever they please at an outdoor, kid friendly event" versus "control your kids?" Seems to me that it's never too early to teach kids that yes, this is a park and you can run around. However, over in this area people are listening to music. Run over there, listen to music here.

I love the summer for concerts in the park --- Have loved them before kids and continue to love them after kids. Pre-kids, I went to park concerts to enjoy the music or performance, but I also went to socialize and hang out with friends. I never consider myself unduly loud or rambunctious, but I would say that I wasn't sitting there in silence just watching. Friends chat in hushed voices, which I wouldn't do in performance hall or theater. But, we aren't in symphony hall or the theater. Different venue, different experience.

Post-kids, we also make the outdoor concert experience a social one. We meet other families and we use it as a way to expose the kids to new sights and sounds. It is honestly very hard to get them to sit still in an outdoor setting and get them to pay attention, which is fine with me. I figure they'll get their exposure through osmosis or something. We try to sit further from the front to allow them to get wiggles out. We try to make sure they are not loud. We hush them before strangers can hush them. But, they won't be still and silent, and we would never expect it.

I won't stay at home, and I will do all I can to make sure that the girls don't cause too much distress for neighboring concert goers, who - in our experience - have generally been welcoming to picnicking families.

We were at the airport - again - last weekend, sitting in some chairs near the gate. A middle aged man and his friends were talking loudly near us. F-in this, F-in that. Loudly. Now, I'm a big believer in swearing, which is going to make it hard to raise a non-swearing child. So I didn't glare - I just reflexively winced a little in his direction. You know what he did? He apologized and stopped right away. And I hadn't even looked at him.
I guess I'm saying my experience of the "rift" between people with kids and everybody else has mostly been everybody else trying to help me out, tolerate the rough parts and smooth my way. I hope I'm up to returning that favor to them.
There is one thing that hasn't been mentioned in this discussion that might help. A lot of music performed outdoors in public uses microphones and amplifiers to be heard over all the ambient noise. At the farmers market, you can usually hear the band over children yelling, rain hitting the tents, whatever.
But classical music is rarely amplified (remember how Luciano Pavarotti was criticized by purists for using a microphone t times?). Even when it is, there can often be very long stretches of the softest of music. So maybe, if you have a child who is at an age where listening is unrealistic, it might be better to try another kind of concert. Then everyone else - people with kids and people without kids (who are still families, in my opinion) - can enjoy it no matter what else is going on.

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