Some of you new parents may bemoan the fact that you can’t do the “stuff you used to do,” like getting boozed out of your mind every Saturday afternoon and heading to the neighborhood lawn dart party. Or attending the furry convention at the local Hyatt hotel dressed as Sexy CuddlyBear. Or going to concerts.
That last one may be the hardest to take. For avid concert-goers, the arrival of a child can mean the death of the only thing you called a social life. Not to mention all those killer bands you’re going to miss. But there is a way out of this pickle, for parents of kids of any age.
Outdoor music festivals.
Summer is here, and the festival tours are just kicking off. And every city that has a public green usually hosts some sort of outdoor concert series. So stop whining and get it together. This summer is going to rock …
1. Be prepared.
Used to be you and your friends could load up the Honda Civic, drive half toasted to the local nightclub or amphitheater and spend the following 24-72 hours blitzed and moshing. All you needed was a cooler full and your I.D. Now you have a little life to consider (other than your own, that is). Depending on the age of that little ball of wonder, you and your significant other will have to create the Concert Baby Pack. Or maybe the tweener Bag O’Fun.
For the tykes, you probably already have a travel bag prepped for trips to the playground, grocery store or library. This one is a little different. A festival concert trip, with any luck, will turn out to be an all-day affair. So here’s your checklist:
- Diapers (go with at least five)
- Baby wipes (a handful in a sealable plastic bag will do)
- Two (yes two) full changes of clothes
- A water and juice bottle (full and in a chill pack if possible)
- Various food packs and snacks
- Sunglasses or visor (if your child will wear them)
- Two blankets (for the kid – you also need to bring your own)
- Sunscreen (highest SPF available – apply some before leaving the house)
- Lots of easy-to-carry toys and gadgets
- Teethers or pacifiers (if your kid is into that stuff)
- Hand sanitizer
- Ear plugs or comfortable sound-reducing ear phones
This is the minimum you should carry. Make sure the venue allows for liquids, as you certainly don’t want to have to dump baby’s refreshments before entering. If you have light folding chairs, bring them. Likewise with an umbrella or some sort of unobtrusive shading device. If you’re really into it, bring along the travel crib. A comfortable baby is a patient, fun and easy baby.
If you’re bringing tweeners or teenagers along, they can put their own bags together, but make certain you also prepare a few things to ease your suffering if your normally perfectly behaved pumpkin ball decides to freak out or gets so bored he or she decides to chatterbox through your favorite band.
Remind them to bring their cell phones or iPods (if they are allowed to have them), and be sure to pack snacks and sunscreen for them, too. They will forget … everything (if you let them).
Dress everyone comfortably. Including yourself.
2. Pick the right concert.
If you want to enjoy a day of live music, it might behoove you to consider the kids in the decision-making process. Hopefully, you have introduced your children to the best of your record collection, so you may have some common interests. Regardless, don’t make this all about you. Including the child in the process will make them feel less like tag-alongs and more like part of the party.
Of course, if you are attending with baby, your biggest consideration is how long you can hold out. Still, attending a children’s concert from time to time with your bambino is a great idea. It gets the little one used to crowds and acclimates them to the idea that one must actually sit still for a length of time to enjoy the music.
Any outdoor festival worth its salt will have some sort of activity for children. Bouncy houses, amusement rides, arts-and-crafts tables, skate ramps and water features are becoming commonplace these days. And that’s a good thing. But if the concert you really want to attend has none of these, be sure your kids feel like you had them in mind. Maybe spend a little extra on a T-shirt or cotton candy when they start to get antsy. Hey, sometimes you gotta sacrifice.
3. Park in the shade.
If possible, park in the shade. Better to park farther away and return to a relatively cooler car than open the doors to a furnace and tell the kids “Hop in!” If you know you’ll be at the show until after dark, this rule does not apply.
4. Sit close, but not too close.
If there is shade, again, jump on it. Chances are, though, if you are outside, you will be in the sun. So find a spot somewhere in the rear two thirds of the venue. In the first third, it will be 1. too loud for baby and young kids and 2. too crowded. If you attend a high-energy concert, you’ll also have to contend with arm-swinging moshers or (worse) inebriated dancers. Steer clear. If you can’t control yourself, you can always take leave of the family for a few minutes and join the mosh. You’ll be glad to have a soft blanket to return to.
In the second third of the venue, you’ll enjoy good sound (this is usually where the sound engineer sets up, so you’ll get a fairly good mix in this area). The crowd spreads out a bit, too, so you’ll have some elbow room, and the kids can move around without disturbing anyone.
In the back third, the sound may be a little thin, but this is where you’ll likely find trees, maybe a pond (if you’re in a super-nice park) and plenty of room for the kids to jump around and for you to walk baby.
5. Divide your time judiciously.
Sure, you’re there to take in the music and atmosphere, but make sure to get your kids into the action. Take time to stroll around, engage in activities and talk about the music. Tell them about your favorite bands and explain what you like about them. And give them a voice. This should be part of good parenting, but we often forget, especially when our immediate interests aren’t being served. Ask them what they want to do … then do it. They’ll be more apt to leave you alone when your band is on.
Same goes for baby. Don’t just stick the kid in the crib and toss in a few toys. Get her out and dance with her. Walk around and look at stuff. Get a little dirty. This is playtime for everyone. Enjoy it.
6. If you have to, leave early.
The worst thing you can do is force the family to stay beyond their limits. If baby is melting down, pack up and go. The kids are being unruly idiots? Get the hell outta there. Even if it means you miss the headliner, the band you’ve been waiting eight years to see, get up and go. The show will be less than enjoyable with a whining tweener or screaming infant by your side. Go home and try again next time.