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.