No Babies at the Symphony…Please!

| May 13, 2011 | Comments (7)

I have written before about my love for the CSO’s Kraft Family Matinee series. This series of several, hour-long Saturday afternoon concerts is a wonderful way to introduce elementary-school aged children to the beauty of classical music. Each concert features selections from works by great composers — organized around a theme, such as water or city versus country – and some kind of visual element such as dance or mime to keep young patrons engaged. The result is a sensory delight for parents and kids.

That is, unless there’s a toddler behind you talking through the whole concert.

The CSO states in no uncertain terms that the Kraft Family concerts are intended for children ages five and above. I started taking my daughter, who is a music lover with a long attention span, when she was in first grade. Just because the suggested age is five and up, that does not mean that every five year old would be an ideal concert-goer. My son turns five next year and I have no intention of including him on our trips to the Symphony. I might take him to a mosh pit, where he would no doubt hold his own. But Orchestra Hall? Not for a few more years at least.

What I don’t understand is why I see so many people with two and three year olds — some of whom have binkies plugged in their mouths! — and even babies at these concerts. If your kid is at an age to walk around town sucking on a pacifier, a Baby Einstein DVD is a better choice than the CSO. Kids that age can hardly be expected to be quiet and sit still for even an hour-long concert. It’s not fair to the kids and it’s not fair to the other patrons who have to endure the talking and the crying and the seat-kicking when they are trying to enjoy the concert and teach their (older) kids something in the process.

Listen, I’m not some cranky old bat who doesn’t get that this is a family event. I’m a mom too. I don’t expect the audience at the family concert to behave like the ladies and gents at the Lyric Opera. My daughter likes to whisper occasional comments to me during the performance. She fidgets in her seat. I expect and gladly tolerate some amount of normal kid behavior from her and from those around me. But normal older kid behavior. Not normal toddler and preschooler behavior. Because toddlers and preschoolers do not belong at this event.

And the CSO family concerts are not the only event at which I have seen parents with kids that are far too young to be there. I don’t get it. What’s the rush? Concerts, plays, movies – these events will all still be here in a year or two when your kid is old enough to appreciate them.

One of the reasons that parents bring young kids to events is because they also have an older kid who is ready for that event. But to me, that’s not a good enough reason. My kids are three and a half years apart. That means that they have different interests, different schedules and are ready for different kinds of activities. So my husband and I split up. I take my daughter to a concert or a play. My husband takes our son to the Brookfield Zoo…again. Even if we go to the same place, like the Museum of Science and Industry or the Chicago Botanic Gardens, we still split up because my son can watch trains until his legs give out from under him and my daughter — like most reasonable people — cannot. It sometimes makes me sad that we do so many things in pairs instead of all together as a family. But for now, that’s the only way to be fair to each kid and to the people around us.

So to the family of that sweet, lisping toddler who talked through the entire concert last Saturday, I really hope you think twice before renewing your subscription for next year.

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Category: arts, Chicago, entertainment, Events, New Posts, Parenting

About Emily: Emily is a Washington DC native now living in the near west suburbs of Chicago. A lawyer by training, she works part-time teaching at a local law school and spends most of her time taking care of her family and volunteering in her community. Emily and her husband have a daughter who is in second grade and a three-year-old son. Emily’s daughter has many food allergies, which can make birthday parties, school lunches and dining out a challenge, but she strives to keep her daughter’s life pretty normal and even fun. Emily’s son does not appear to have any allergies, just a profound aversion to the word "no." Emily’s tastes range from the serious to the frivolous. She subscribes to US Weekly and The New Yorker. She follows politics, theater, movies, television, fashion and pop culture. That doesn’t mean she actually goes to the theater or dresses fashionably, of course. Emily loves to cook more than almost anything else and she recently became an avid canner; but she doesn't garden and she barely decorates. You can read Emily’s thoughts on all these topics and whatever else comes to mind at her personal blog <West of the Loop. View author profile.

Comments (7)

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  1. megryansmom says:

    It’s not just the Symphony that’s not appropriate for toddlers. But I think some people think the cost of a ticket is far less than paying a babysitter and off they go. Too bad for those who want to enjoy the event.

  2. Beth says:

    That is smart advice to split up and do activities in pairs.

    For so long, I wanted us to be together as a family on weekends. But, it wasn’t as idealistic as I had hoped. Usually, someone ended up crying.

    Recently, we have been splitting up and it has been win, win for everyone involved. My kid’s love getting to spend one on one time with us and we have enjoyed the intimate experiences.

  3. Carrie says:

    Not everyone has the luxury of splitting up like you and your husband do. Maybe the symphony is a special situation, but in general if the event if for kids — a daytime movie, a play, a kid’s program at the elementary school, etc. — I would call for a little understanding for parents who would not be able to treat their older kids to the event without bringing the littles.

    Think of all the single parents out there. Sure, people may say, get a babysitter. But even for me — and I’m not a single parent — a sitter is a luxury to be reserved usually for situations when I’m earning enough to cover it, or for the very occasional completely child-free event. For a normal kids event, it would be either none of the kids get to see it, or I bring the little ones.

    I don’t think most children’s events should be the exclusive domain of those with only one child or those who have the resources to split up their kids.

    • Emily says:

      I have to say, I stand by my original position. I get that single parents may struggle with meeting the needs of two kids. But there are plenty of events that are appropriate for all ages: outdoor concerts, for example, or a Ralph’s World show. I still think that there is no reason to bring babies and toddlers to events that are not appropriate for their age. It is not fair to them or to the other attendees.

  4. I take your point, but I actually think the CSO family concerts ARE for preschoolers. My daughter has been going since she was 3, with no issue. Our next door neighbor is a member of the CSO and she has given us tickets to the event. My son tried to go at 4, and lasted about 30 min.
    To me, the real issue is that if a child is being unreasonably disruptive, parents should leave, and if necessary, ushers should come by with a gentle suggestion to step outside for a few minutes.
    But, that should be true of ALL events for ALL audiences. I’m much less annoyed at kids acting up at a family event than I am at ringing cell phones and adults talking through a play, ballet, movie, spa treatment, etc when I’m paying for tickets AND a babysitter.
    I’d much rather a family take a chance and try a cultural event, even if it means that I’m annoyed during it. But adults at adult events should be quiet!

  5. Michelle says:

    I don’t think the issue is with toddlers at a children’s concert. It’s a matter of courtesy altogether that is lacking in way too many areas. The cell phones ringing at the adult symphony, the people who insist on parking in the fire lane at school dropoff instead of in the MULTITUDE of parking spaces available ten feet away, the people who don’t seem to notice the mom struggling to get her stroller through the door, the kids who throw sand or rocks all over the other children at the park, etc. We’re a selfish society, and it shows. This is one example – although I have to admit that given how strict the ushers are at Ravinia during CSO concerts, I’m somewhat surprised they aren’t more so during the Kraft Kids concerts.

    Then again, I wonder how much of it is ignorance – willful or otherwise. And no, we haven’t been … for a reason, much as I’d love it.

  6. I agree with Michelle. Regardless, I think the CSO just held a concert for the really young ones, yes?
    This is what Google just told me: http://www.timeoutchicagokids.com/arts-entertainment/museums-sights/42285/yo-yo-ma-spearheads-multiple-youth-music-programs-for-the-cs, I’m sure there’s more info out there.

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