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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Incident

As promised, The Incident that set me thinking a bit about the whole judging parents thing from yesterday. Brilliant comments, by the way. This is the story I related to my accountant friend.

On a recent Saturday night, Joe and I attended a concert. The venue was new to us and kind of cool. It was definitely designed for the specific purpose of hosting bands and crowds. A stage at one end, a bar on one side, a bar in the back. Lots of standing room in between. Upstairs, a balcony open on three sides to allow a view of the stage from above and another bar. Add a couple of bathrooms and a merchandise table, that's about it.

The tickets stated "doors open at 8pm, show at 9pm". It also said "16+, under 21 = $3 surcharge". Because, obviously, they expect to make money on the drinks.

We arrived around 8:30 and the hall grew increasingly jammed. Not being a great fan of crowds (and also being short), this wasn't ideal for me but their air conditioning worked well and I've found that overheating is one of my worst anxiety attack triggers so I did ok.

The opening act started around 9:30. I looked to my left and saw something that seemed a bit out of place. What was it? It was two children. I'm not great at estimating ages but I'm guessing five and seven. And if family resemblance means anything, they were there with their folks (or at least very close relatives).

I kept expecting them to leave. Maybe they were relatives of the opening band? But they were still there when the main act took the stage at 10:30pm and remained through the end of the show which was well after midnight.

The main act, by the way, features some of the following lyrics (some may find these disturbing but they're a sample of the band's set):
Then through the glass I see your dress fall to the floor
As he embraces every inch of you
The woman I adore.

As I walked calmly numbing paralyzed beside the bed
I said “I know I’m not allowed to be here. I just had to see
How good this new man really f&*%s you. Cause you both been f&*%ing me.”

"You sit and watch me while I do this s%^& and learn from what I’ve said."
I cocked the pistol pulled the trigger, and all I saw was red

These are from a song about a husband sneaking back into his home, catching his wife and lover in the act, and shooting them both before committing suicide.

To be honest, I don't like to listen to a lot of that sort of thing (and it seems even worse here but I've deliberately selected some of the more offensive bits). The song above actually really bothers me and caused me to have nightmares that night. Seriously. And not EVERY lyric or song has that tone. But that intensity does run amok through most of their songs.

So, here's where all that "judging of parents" came up in conversation. Accountant Person asked about the concert and I was telling her about the venue, about how the live show was fantastic and intense. Then I mentioned the parents next to us with their two small children and "what in the world were they thinking bringing their kids to a bar at that hour to be exposed to that kind of language".
Accountant Person: You don't know what the circumstances were. Maybe they didn't have a choice!
me: No choice? About whether or not to bring their kids to that kind of show in that kind of environment at that hour?
AP: Yeah, maybe they couldn't find a babysitter.
me: Then it seems the option would've been to not attend.
AP: Life doesn't end when you have children! Why should they have to stay home if they want to go to the show?
me: Because they wanted kids and those are some of the choices you have to make? I'm not saying life has to end. But that just seems really inappropriate to me.
AP: Yeah, "it seems". You're not even a parent and you don't know the details so you have no right to judge.

I really can't think of any situation that would force the parents to bring their children into that environment. Unless that tall dude with them had a gun in his jacket, which seems unlikely.

However, poor choice aside regarding content/environment, it wasn't a situation that probably put the children in physical danger. There was no pushing or fighting. The bartender obviously wasn't serving the kids drinks. The club is even smoke-free so that wasn't an issue.

Maybe this is one of those gray areas. It's certainly very different from situations we've probably all (unfortunately) witnessed that were clearly dangerous or abusive.

So, tri-fold feedback I'm looking for in this post I guess since you all rocked the comments yesterday. Was I wrong for judging this situation (aka was I not allowed)? Am I wrong in thinking this was a really poor parenting choice? And when are outsiders allowed/obligated to speak up/intervene?

P.S. For the record, I didn't say anything, didn't give any looks, and wouldn't have said anything unless the crowd nearby was rowdy or something of that nature - like if they had been placing their children in a cage with armed robot armadillos, I probably would've objected. Instead, I judged them silently. And to Joe. And on my blog.

P.P.S. I'm not anti-accountants. Joe was almost an accountant. Until I talked some sense into him.


blognut said...

It's not wrong to have an opinion. It's not.

That said, some people will disagree with your opinion; such as your accountant person did. That's what opinions are for, and there's no harm done.

It's a little wrong for the accountant person to act like you are not entitled to an opinion because you aren't a parent, and this person (in my humble opinion) lacks a bit of grace in letting you know that his/her opinion differs from yours.

Also, in my humble opinion, kids that young have no business in a bar at that hour. Probably... just probably... they're young enough that the lyrics went over their head. However, I would not choose to bring them out at that hour, to a bar, unless there was a very, very good reason why they NEEDED to be there.

I will tell you, dear Cate, that the older you get, the less you will care what other people think. At least that's how it has been for me. Let go of that kind of anxiety; it does you no good. :)

Sarah said...

Would I take my kids, at that age, there? No. Do I judge it as a mistake on their part? Yes. Do I think it's something that's going to scar the children for life, and therefore worth any sort of intervention? No.
That being said, Accountant Person, and I don't know who she is, but she was being a bitch. Yes, I said it (that's my opinion!). There is no way "they didn't have a choice in the matter. That's just silly.

C. Beth said...

Headed out the door--scanned the post. My quick 2 cents' worth--

Very inappropriate. Not abusive but a very poor choice.

Mama On The Run said...

Not for kids. As parents sometimes we do have to miss fun things because we don't have a sitter, the children are sick say they did not have a choice is soo silly...and for telling you your opinion does not count because you do not have kids?! Ridiculous!

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

It's pretty simple: if we can't find a babysitter, we don't go out.

Or just one of us goes out.

When we went to see R.E.M. a few years ago, we got my mother-in-law to take my daughter. It's not that R.E.M. has really offensive language, we just didn't want to take her, have her out late, and all that good stuff. If Mother-in-Law couldn't take her, we wouldn't have gone.

I mean, it's pretty simple.

But then again, I was shocked at the ages of the children sitting in front of us at Miss Saigon last month, so what do I know?

kristi said...

Personally I would have thought the same thing. We saw Obssessed over the weekend and some lady brought her 3 year old in there. I don't understand why. In one Scene of the movie, Beyonce beats the hell out of the other woman. Not something a 3 year old should witness.

Intense Guy said...

Actually, I think this goes even beyond "children" being present at violent / inappropriate scenes -

We adults really don't need it either.

I will the media (in general and in total) would pull back from the crap they spew into the world.

Accidentally Me said...

1) Definitely not wrong to have an opinion. It seems like a strange place to bring children...I bring my 14 year old sister pretty much everywhere, and I would have left her home!

2) I don't necesarily see it as a "bad" parenting choice. Surely it is odd, but a couple bad words doesn't make it bad (now...if it is as smoke-filled as some concert venues are, then it gets a lot worse). Maybe the kid loves the band for some reason and it was a reward for doing well in school or something? Not something that I would have chosen, but I wouldn't call it innapropriate.

3) Not even close to the point where outsiders intervene...that is really limited to issues of abuse or immediate danger to the kids. It sounds like there was nothing dangerous outside of some adult content of the songs (and seven year olds don't really "get" song lyrics...)

Accidentally Me said...

p.s. Whether or not you have kids is totally un-related to your right to have an opinion.

TMC said...

This post reminded me of one I wrote a while back:

SF said...

Sorry, bad parenting choice. No need to take kids that young to a concert like that, especially that late at night. I don't understand people who drag their kids around til midnight, aren't they cranky and tired?

That totally reminds me of last year when we went to The Cure concert. We were about 4 rows from the stage and I looked to my right, and there was some dingbat with a newborn baby. She had shoved earplugs into its ears but I'm sure that didn't help. I was 5 months pregnant at the time and my kid was going nuts at the noise. Really stupid parenting choice. If you can't get a sitter, stay home. Sometimes you have to give up things when you have children, it's just how it is.

Just cause you don't have kids doesn't mean you can't have an opinion. Everyone has one on everything.

Ryan Ashley Scott said...

I think it is one of those gray areas, in that it wasn't particularly harmful, but it wasn't particularly helpful. If anything, I'd say it falls under the "inappropriate" category because, even though they weren't being physically harmed (other than possible hearing impairment and lack of sleep) some of those lyrics - and even an adult atmosphere - can provide emotional distress.

Of course we don't know the whole story (although seriously, they had to be there?) I tend to imagine the next morning when the kids are grouchy and uncooperative and the parent's can't figure out why and get irritated with them. It's hard not to judge.

As far as the accountant goes, you probably touched a nerve with something she's done. Just because you aren't a parent (sometimes an 'outside' point of view is clearer) doesn't mean you are automatically wrong.

If the kids are in danger, that's reason enough to say something. Otherwise, I doubt it would even do any good to give the parents your opinion.

Honestly, I'm trying to be nice here. Being an "infertile" has put a bit of a chip on my shoulder about the carelessness of some parents. It really really really bothers me, but I admit to having personal issues here.

S~DLT said...

You get to have an opinion, on whatever you want. You get to voice your opinion, whether you have kids or not. Having been through a situation or not does not qualify anyone to have less of an opinion.

I don't have kids but I do have experience with them. The situation is not harmful to them but there is a reason that the venue chose to have it 16+. On one side, I'm sure there will be some pretty cranky kids the next morning. No little kid needs to be up at midnight. And the other side is, (for me) I would rather go to an event that doesn't have kids. Even 16+ is too young for me, I can't be bothered. It is bothersome for me to be somewhere that is adult appropriate and have someone bring their kids - for whatever the reason is. I'm sorry but once you decided to have children, you gave up the option of going to/doing everything you want. Get a sitter, stay home but dont' bring your children to age inappropriate functions.

And as for your friend...I'm going to agree with Sarah.

mo.stoneskin said...

It was clearly a very odd parenting choice. Not wrong, mind, just odd.

I would probably naturally judge them in my mind, because it would seem a dumb and foolish thing to do, the lyrics may go over their heads, but then they may not.

But on the other hand it isn't much different from some of the violent crap parents sometimes allow (perhaps unknowingly) their kids to watch or listen to. Not that that would be an excuse.

I know I would never take mine to a venue like that when they are that age, but then again, maybe there was a reason - maybe they go to 'harmless' gigs occasionally and a friend recommended the band, maybe it was the friend's birthday and they didn't want to leave.

Or maybe they are just scum, people that don't give much thought or care and wanted to go so dragged the kids along.

Great posts Cate, glad you shared.

H F W said...

No, it's never wrong to have an opinion. You obviously have a different thought of what's appropriate. I guess that's what I meant by my post yesterday -- everyone parents based on their on personal life experiences.

You probably didn't grow up thinking that situation would be approriate. The common sense you've gained over the years tells you that decision wasn't appropriate. And your own very personal attitude says that sometimes the kids are more important than your own desires.

So there's the thing -- see how personal parenting is? The judging of parenting is actually a judgement on their characters and such.

Maybe they are still somewhat really into themselves and don't think about their kids' needs. Maybe those parents never developed the common sense that says to many people, hey this might not be appropriate. And that's a judgement on them and not so much on just the job they are doing.

You think about very interesting things; thank you for these hard posts.

lailani said...

I would not have taken my kids. And as far as opionions and voicing them? Definitely your perogative. It does not take giving birth to think of the welfare (physical, emotional or mental) of a child and the what impact various influences may have.


Amy K. said...

A very poor parenting choice on their part. I would never take my kids to a show that late in a bar...and my husband plays shows like that sometimes!!

If we can't get a sitter for ANY type of obviously adult event we don't go or the one of us who least wants to go, stays home.

And yes, you are allowed an opinion. I happen to agree with yours, lol.

2cats said...

You are always allowed to have an opinion. It is your opinion and no one can tell you that you are wrong. It is your opinion and therefore right for you.

It was definitely bad parenting. Children that age have no business at a concert whether it is in a bar or any other venue. It is way too loud for their little ears. Plus being way too late of a night.

Parents should be willing to make sacrifices when they have children. It should not matter if they had tickets and the babysitter backed out. They just plain should not have gone.

And I have such a lack of tact I would have felt obligated to tell them what I thought of them bringing the kids along. Which, would have been wrong.

As far as your accountant friend, she seems to have gotten awfully defensive. As if you were criticizing her. Possibly she doubts her parenting skills. I don't know but she really over reacted.

Like I said, your opinion is yours. No one has to agree with it and even if no one does, that does not make it wrong.

Tori_z said...

I don't know about whether or not you were wrong to have an opinion. Nor do I know when non-parents are allowed opinions. However, in myy opinion you were right to feel the way you did about the situation. And, for the record, a simular situation happened when I went to a concert with my Mam. In this case the lyrics were cleaner, but the show was starting about the same time (and ending about the same time). My Mam even said then that she thought it wrong that little kids were out at concerts at that time of night. Her comment at the time was along the lines of:

"If they were like 10 or older, fair enough. But kids under 10 should be home either in bed or having quiet time ready to settle soon at this time of night. When you have kids, you better not be planning on dragging them out at this time of night. You get a baby sitter, or you stay home."

And, I have to say, I agree. There are plenty of options for babysitting... Family members, friends, professional baby sitters, etc. And then - as you pointed out - there's also the option of not going. I'd pick that option over taking my kids somewhere like that (especially that time of night).

andy said...

i feel like the human race is going to hell in a hand basket.

i want to live back in the laura ingalls day where all you had to worry about was scurvy.

or barn fires.

when i see the state of the world we live in i want to gather my children and the dog and go live in the woods with the fairies.

the only thing i need is my computer.

because i can't live without you guys! but i can lose all the other shit.

for shiz.


p.s. in a parenting fucktarded moment like this i suppose i would quell my disgust by thinking that at least they were spending time with their kids...meh.

Call Me Cate said...

I'm going to respond to these comments by email as well. Unless you have no email address. Then I'll just cry. Thanks to everyone who weighed in!

Sass said...

I'm usual.

But I have to have a right to your opinion. You know, there's that whole freedom of speech thing that some individuals (apparently accountants) aren't always comfortable with.

And I just can't think that I'd take my kids with me to a concert of that nature if I had no other choice. I'd figure...wasn't meant to be, we'd all stay home. Or, as mjenks said, one of us would go...with a friend or something.

Sometimes I think parents treat children like they're little bitty adults, and sometimes...they just need to be treated as children.

And furthermore...just because you don't have children, doesn't mean you can't have an opinion on the situation.

Very well written...I think you should try to offend people more often. ;)