Mind your child.

One of the ‘perks’ of working at Melbourne University is attending free lunchtime concerts organised by the Faculty of Music. Students and staff perform a wide variety of music. Some well known and some totally new.

Of course ‘free’ means also a number of things. One is that for some reason the value of the experience is seen by some as less formal than if you paid to see the performers. So on occasions we get buses of geriatrics from nursing homes. Free concerts is a great way for occupational therapists (or whatever they are called) to do a day trip. So we enjoy that faint smell of urine and detergent that people living in those homes tend to acquire.

We also get the other end, that is people bringing their children. I have to admit that since I became a father I surprisingly became much more tolerant of children and their foibles. It’s amazing how quickly you become adept to have a reasonable conversation with another adult (which has to be another parent, as they would have acquired the same skills as yourself) with two and three years olds screaming, running and bouncing. However there this can be a double edged sword because as you enter the world of parenthood and get immunisation from children behaviour this may not apply to adults who have no children or have had limited exposure to them.

Some say that children have every right to participate in the world and that our society is anti-children. I think we must help children participate in society, but there are limits. Going to a restaurant? Ask them what time the kitchen opens so you can be there early and have a great time and be at home watching the telly while adults have their romantic meals in peace. A win win situation. For the child, for the parent and for the adults later in the evening.

So I sat down looking forward to hear the concert when just after it started a couple sat in front of me with a child who would have been about one and a half or two. I knew that this wasn’t good.

Before being accused of being anti-children I can say that I am the opposite. Being stuck in a plane near young children is bad luck but children have to travel as well and I would be understanding of their (and parents) predicament. But unless that child was sitting for a Faculty of Music entrance exam there was no reason why he had to be there. The sun was shining outside and there is a park across the road. The child would have been much happier to run around with a ball instead of listening to a piano piece of Prokofiev.

The child became restless, started to talk and therefore disturbing everyone in the vicinity. What was the point of all this? The child was unhappy because he was bored, in a dark place with music he wasn’t interested in. The parents were stressed as they tried unsuccessfully to keep him quiet, and everyone around was unhappy because their musical experience was spoiled.

I would suggest the Wiggles next time.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Mind your child.

  1. Jonk

    Good blog Gweeds. I’ve been reading lately but not commenting (sorry!)

    something which I noticed in Spain is how much more tolerant they are of children in public places than Aus. With a birth rate of about 1.5 or whatever it is it seems that tolerating is close as many Spanish get to parenting.

    I’m sad your piano concert was wrecked!

  2. Alex

    Now, as someone with an almost 2-year old, I’d happily take my little one to anything I think he would enjoy. He has been to three weddings, several synagogue services and quite a few restaurant meals. While Mark is by no means a quiet or sedentary child (far from it), he has always coped remarkably well with being in public, and when we do sense he is pushing the boundaries of acceptable behaviour, we usually try to stop him from disrupting things.

    But, Mark is also quite happy to express his likes and dislikes. If Mark had expressed a liking for Prokofiev (unlikely, as it would mean he’d’ve had to have had some level of exposure to it to recognise it! Not likely to get it from me.), I’d happily take Mark to the concert (although at the moment, his favourite song is Enter Sandman, I’m unlikely to take him to a Metallica concert as it would be well past his bedtime)

    Of course, as a parent, I do like seeing other people’s children play up in public – it makes me feel better when Mark does it 🙂

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