Rock concerts as a ”Mommy and Me” event
It is December 1997, and I — a grown woman who is wishing she’d had the sense to bring ear plugs and Excedrin — am sitting in the front row of Madison Square Garden with approximately 20,000 screaming young girls waiting for three shaggy-haired boys to crank out bubblegum pop-rock. Why, you wonder? The 11-year-old immediately to my right, who’s just about to dispense some career advice.
”You can’t ever leave Entertainment Weekly,” says my daughter Jaya, clutching my arm as we sit within spitting distance of the Hanson brothers for her first-ever concert. When I pointed out that I might someday want to move on, she replies, ”Okay, but not ’til I’m done with high school.”
Thanks to my job as a music reporter, this concert also included a backstage meeting with Hanson. The brothers couldn’t have been sweeter to her. At the time, she was madly crushing on Zac Hanson, age 12, and as she walked away, dazed, through the back corridors of the Garden, all she could say, over and over again, was ”Zac said ‘Hi.”’ Then she burst into tears. (There hadn’t been much sleep in anticipation of this monumental event…)
From then on, going to shows was a constant in my daughter’s life. A banker gives his kids money, a farmer gives them produce; I gave mine concert tickets and tons of free CDs. But before you think I was merrily waving her off to backstage trysts with tattooed drummers, let me make clear that many of these concerts were with me — holding hands through a Rufus Wainwright show; screaming ourselves hoarse at the Prince extravaganza; comparing notes after a tiny Lower East Side showcase. To her credit, she knew what a great thing she had going — and that pretty much one false move, and I’d stop the concert gravy train.
Fast-forward seven years, to when my now-college-bound daughter cheerfully announced that she had tallied up the ticket stubs from all the concerts/showcases/local gigs that she had been to since that Hanson show and the grand total was…68.
Yes, 68 concerts.
I was dumbfounded. And slightly nauseous. And filled with maternal guilt and confusion. And, well, probably a wee bit of jealousy.
Had this happened because I have been trying to right the terrible wrong of when I was 15 and had to leave a Grateful Dead concert at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night? ”Where are you going?” asked my incredulous classmates as I stepped over them, Jerry Garcia singing 20 feet away, on the way to my mother’s station wagon. ”They just went on 10 minutes ago!” The Dead played til 2 a.m., as I heard from half the class the next Monday. (If you think I’m exaggerating, here’s an update: At a recent high-school reunion, one of my classmates clapped me on that back, bellowing to the room, ”Hey, remember when Beth had to leave that Dead show? I couldn’t believe it! Jerry had only played, like, one song!”)
Then again, music is my daughter’s love and passion (her father is a musician, so it’s not all my doing!) and going to these shows thrilled her each and every time. She was getting great grades, did plenty of volunteer work, was in every school play, played guitar, and, most important to me, was a happy kid. Still, in my guilty moments I think, ”Should I have been making her attend advanced calculus weekend seminars instead?” Other times, it’s ”We could have built a village for Habitat for Humanity in the time spent at 68 shows!”
When the concert tally came to light with other parents (usually along the lines of ”Soooo, my son/daughter tells me that…”) reaction was split between a knowing laugh (from other ”media” parents), a ”wow, you must be the coolest mom” (suburban pals yearning to cut loose), or the dreaded long-pause-and-tight-smile that clearly indicated what an appalling, boundary-lacking, arrested-development parent I really was.
My daughter is now a senior in college, writes record reviews for the school newspaper, and is still going to concerts every chance she gets. We still compare notes on shows we’ve seen and I still wish I’d seen Green Day with her (I gave my ticket to her best friend). And no, I never made her leave a concert early.
So what do you think? Do you like to go to concerts with your kids? Are you a rock-and-roll parent who embarrasses your child with your old Van Halen T-shirt collection? What kinds of swag from work have you treated your kids with? Share your thoughts on the message board below.