Today the kid and I had a lovely opportunity to go hear a live musician who was performing an abbreviated set for little children, in support of his upcoming family album. A local radio station that we support was the sponsor and host, so I pre-registered, we waited with anticipation, and this morning we got ourselves together and drove there.
The performer, Ellis Paul (www.ellispaul.com), was a lively, gifted and patient entertainer who also happens to be a parent. That’s good, since performing for a group of 30-something preschoolers can be rather challenging. He did a fabulous job, sang some old Woody Guthrie tunes, some other popular kid tunes, and he did it all with just an acoustic guitar, a microphone, and an impressive ability to stay focused and tuneful in the face of madness.
And it did become a tad mad. The session was 45 minutes long. That was probably a bit too long for a number of the children gathered there. I must praise my own little guy; he was fully attentive for about 38 minutes, clapping, bobbing his head, really listening and looking at the guy and enjoying himself. Even when he started to fade during the last song or two, I was honestly right there with him—and our distraction was entirely due to the madness. We both have some anxiety issues when the noise and confusion levels are high, especially when there are numerous rowdy strangers around—which was the case.
Where is this going? Well, I just want to sing out loudly in favor of controlling your children. The radio station, God bless ‘em for trying this, asked in the registration confirmation that we bring only a blanket and our best listening skills. Okay—do good listening skills include jumping up and down on a nearby stage to hear the loud thump that the hollow floor makes? Is good listening illustrated by crawling around on the floor, standing, falling forward, nearly hitting a tiny girl in her mom’s lap, all the while growling loudly? Does good listening translate as running through the throngs of people who are seated on the floor, trying to see the singer and listen to his music? And let me make it clear that all this was happening while the poor fellow sang and strummed. I’m not talking about kids dancing; that happened too, and we were all delighted by it. Dancing to the music was not the issue.
I don’t want to be ridiculous in my expectations, because it WAS a roomful of kids under the age of 6. And yet, can’t we begin to set realistic expectations for behavior by controlling, and if necessary removing, the kids who are becoming bored and restless? When an audience member becomes louder than the performer, perhaps that’s a clue that the member in question is no longer interested and might prefer to be elsewhere. Perhaps he or she should be taken out of the situation, thus sending the message that such behavior is inappropriate in that setting and won’t be tolerated. Doesn’t the performer deserve that respect?
Then again, why would kids be any different from adults? I’ve attended countless public events, indoor and outdoor, at which I was appalled by the behavior of the audience regardless of its average age. And if the event is free of charge, as was today’s event…? Oh, my—those are, sadly, the worst examples of human behavior. Rudeness rules at free events. And that’s a shame—because for some attendees, free events are their only options.
Anyway. Am I being silly? Should I just relax and let kids be kids, as I’m so often told? And when does that adage become a hackneyed excuse for poorly behaved children? Let me know where you stand on this. Seriously.
And seriously, thank you thank you thank you to WYEP (www.wyep.org) for holding just such an event. Many more, please! Maybe you can rope off a holding pen for the more rambunctious fans next time…? Or not.