Monday, June 11, 2012

Going to a Concert with Baby

I had an interesting experience yesterday. I was invited to a concert of a friend of mine, a classically-trained soprano. I had not had the pleasure of hearing her perform, and it was going to be a special treat for me to attend a concert at all. Since having kids, it's a rare thing to do something "adult," and even rarer something so...sophisticated! The concert was for women only, which was just as well, because my kids were invited to a birthday party at the same time. My husband took the two older boys to the party, and I asked my friend if it was all right to bring the baby to the concert. I wasn't sure how formal a setting it was, or how many people would be there. I was also under the impression that, given that it was a concert primarily for Jewish women, there would be other mothers there, possibly with babies.

She told me it should be fine to have him there, and that she was very happy that I could come. When I got there, I quickly saw that I was one of the few attendees under 50. There were a few other girls and women that I knew, but no one else had a baby with them. (Frankly, most of them were probably grandmothers anyway!) GI was well rested, having awoken from an hour-long afternoon nap just as I arrived at the concert venue (a beautiful house near the beach). In fact, he was amazingly well behaved, quiet, clapping with everyone, and charming the people around me. I made sure to sit in the back, and whenever he got too noisy, I moved farther away, into another room if possible, so as not to bother the singer or the audience.

I enjoyed the concert immensely. My friend has an amazing voice, and I felt privileged to have been personally invited. After the concert, which was about an hour, we moved from the living room to the kitchen for tea, cakes, and fruit. Many, many of the other women came up to me to compliment GI on how well he behaved, on how cute he is, how quiet, and how lovely. One woman wanted to hold him. Another to tickle him. It was so nice to feel accepted, and to see that my baby was bringing joy to all these grandmothers. One woman mentioned that her daughter is expecting, and she's so excited to have another baby in the family soon.

At a moment when I was not near any of the few other attendees I knew, a woman came up to me and said, very sternly, "I can't believe you'd bring a baby here. A concert is no place for a baby!" Because of the otherwise warm reception I had received, I really thought she was joking with me, and I waited for the punch line. Only, the next line was, "You've spoiled the concert for me!" No punch line, only scolding. Oh. "I'm... sorry..." I managed, feeling stunned. I had no idea what to do or say, but she stalked off, presumably to complain to others about the baby spoiling the concert for her. I was put off kilter, but I managed to enjoy mingling a bit more, had some cake and fruit, and made my way out of the house and to my car. GI was going to be hungry soon, and I wanted to get home.

Of course, as one does, on the drive home I thought of all the things I could have or should have said to her besides stammering a lame apology. First of all, I didn't really feel I had anything to apologize for, but I didn't want to start an argument or make a fool of myself. I'm naturally non-confrontational, so it wouldn't have occurred to me to go up to her and start something or make a big deal about it. However, it did get me thinking of what I would have liked her to understand.

GI is my third child. My oldest is just over 5-1/2. This means that I have not been without a toddler or infant since NJ was born, 5-1/2 years ago. In all that time, I have given up a lot of chances to do something interesting or fun because I couldn't afford or find a baby-sitter, because I couldn't leave a breast-fed baby for more than a couple hours, or because money that I would have spent on plane fare or hotel rooms or baby-sitters was instead going to diapers, rent, cars, and food because I work from home in order to be there for my children and therefore do not make a full-time living. (I happen to like my job, too, but that's not the point.)

So, on this rarest of opportunities to do something different and interesting and fun, and having been personally invited by the singer, I had to make a choice: 1) Don't go. 2) Send GI to the birthday party with daddy and NJ and SB and hope that he's okay without me for several hours. 3) Take him and hope he behaves. While I have every confidence that my husband can handle all three children on his own, we both felt more comfortable having GI stay with me. What if he needed to nurse? What if NJ and SB needed attention at the party that my husband couldn't give because he was tending GI? What if, what if. It only made sense to keep GI with me. In a few months to a year, when GI is a toddler, certainly I could have gone alone. But the concert was now. So, my choices were not to go or to bring him and hope it was okay. I made my choice and took him along, with the permission of the performer.

Now, having GI there with me meant that I spent a great deal of time trying to keep him entertained, walking around, letting him crawl around in the back, and so forth, so that he wouldn't fuss or make too much noise. This meant that I didn't get to put my full attention on the concert, as I would have liked. So though I made the choice to attend the concert with him, I did not get to enjoy the concert as much as I would have if he hadn't been with me. I made that compromise in order to be there at all.

What I would like this woman to understand is, I don't make it a habit to take GI to otherwise inappropriate places. We don't take him with us to the occasional movie we go to, except kids' movies where noise and fussing is pretty much par for the course. I have respect for the money people pay for their tickets, and I want to enjoy the movie, not tend the baby. The two times we've gone to the theater as a family since he was born, to see "The Lion King" re-release and "The Lorax," he pretty much slept through them anyway. When we went to see "The Avengers," we hired a baby-sitter. The last time I was at a play or concert or anything was when I was pregnant with NJ, when we saw "The Lion King" musical for my birthday. I don't get to sit and pray in synagogue because I have to be there to tend the kids. We've been on one vacation since NJ was born, and that was our recent drive to Las Vegas, a very rare treat. I haven't been on a plane since we moved to California from Pennsylvania when NJ was four months old.

The point is, I make a lot of choices in the other direction. There are a lot of things I don't do or haven't done because I have a baby or small child or two or three. So, just this once, this one time, I decided I should get to do something for myself, that I should get to go see my friend sing. I sang in a choir for a long time and have a healthy appreciation for singing, singers, and the concert venue, and I know that in most cases, it would not be appropriate to have a baby along. But, just this once, I chose to go with my instinct that GI would be good (and he was) and make the effort to be there. And I was not disappointed. I'm sorry that she was. I really am. I am sorry if I "spoiled" the whole concert for her because I had the audacity to bring my baby into the house. But given the otherwise positive response I received, I tend to think she was the odd one out.

I firmly believe that mothers have the obligation to their babies to be with them. They need us. It is totally normal, in terms of human nature, for a baby to be with his mother almost all the time for at least the first year or two of life. Granted, I make the exception for working mothers and the occasional night away, but I don't think it's so odd to bring the baby with me pretty much everywhere I go. If that means there are places I can't go, then I know that at some point in the future, my children will be old enough to not be with me, and I'll get to do grownup things again, and I'll appreciate it all the more for having been denied those chances when my children were young.

I don't call these choices "sacrifices," but they are compromises. In an effort to help my children grow up healthy and secure, it is my job to be with them. This means that sometimes I have to make the compromise to choose family-friendly activities for the weekend, even if I would rather do something more "adult." It's not so often that the two are mutually exclusive. My tastes do not run to the sophisticated, typically.

So, to that woman, who I am sure is not reading a parenting blog, I'm sorry if you were distracted by my baby and were unable to completely enjoy the concert. I understand how that is. I am not a selfish person, and I am not a stupid person, and I respect that other members of the audience may have found the presence of a baby slightly irritating. I hope that you'll understand that it was a special day for me to get to enjoy this concert, and I hope you'll respect, in turn, that I did my best to keep him from disturbing the singers and the rest of the audience. I'm sure we'll never see each other again or be in the same audience again, and I hope there is absolutely nothing to annoy you at any future concerts that you attend.

And, to my friend who I so enjoyed hearing yesterday, bravo!


  1. Isn't it funny how negative criticism can be weighted so much higher than positive? You had an overwhelmingly positive response to GI's behavior, and you seem to have done a good job of making sure he was as unobtrusive as possible, and yet you were so struck by this woman's attitude that you felt the need to justify your actions. From the description of the event, it seems to me that your post about this concert could just have easily been one about how to keep your baby quiet and well behaved at an adult event. I doubt GI ruined the event for her. Her attitude where her initial irritation at seeing you bring a baby in could not be tempered by his good behavior is what made her miserable, not you or GI. Personally, what irritated me when people bring babies to events is when the child is poorly behaved and the parent does nothing to stop the child's misbehavior, nor do they respect that the child is disturbing other people's experience. None of that seems to apply to GI or you, though, and you seemed ready to take immediate action if he had behaved differently than expected, so I think you chose appropriately.

  2. There is an exciting new opportunity that is growing in popularity online.

    Large companies are paying average people for sharing their opinions!

    You can get up to $75 per survey!

    And it's open to anybody in the world!