The humidity hung in the air like pea soup as I waited with my kids for the band to take the stage. We were attending a family-friendly music festival and I was beyond excited to see a cover band I’d followed since college. Not only was I thrilled to relive my glory days, but I also couldn’t wait for my kids to experience live music from a band that never disappointed. At 10 and 13, my kids were the perfect age to join my husband and me as we met friends downtown for the concert. Also, neither kid had ever seen “concert Mommy,” and they were in for a treat.
As the sweat pooled down my back and the crowd started to tighten up and lurch toward the stage, I marveled at how a night like this seemed so long in the making. No strollers, no toddlers on a strict bedtime routine, and no need to pack baby food meant that a whole new world had opened up for my husband and me. Being able to take our kids to a concert easily felt exciting and liberating. I looked over at my son’s acned face, eager with anticipation, and I smiled fondly at him. My daughter was on my other side, bubbling with excitement even though she could barely see because of the much taller concert-goers in front of her.
The band began playing, and my kids were instantly enthralled, my daughter especially so. I tried lifting her up on my hip so that she could see the stage more clearly, but the tight crowd made that nearly impossible. Because we were only five people back from the stage, I noticed a tiny pocket of space right next to the stage. It was the perfect spot for my pipsqueak, 50-pound 10-year-old to see the band with no difficulty. Slowly and politely, she and I edged closer, and when we got close enough, I let her squeeze up front. I stayed two people back so as to not be rude to the other fans, and I kept my eye on her as the stage lights brought out the highlights in her hair.
Her face lit up like a Christmas tree when the lead singer sang to her. She gleamed as she watched the drummer and her childlike enthusiasm was intoxicating. When she turned back to give me a thumbs up and a huge smile, I started to take a picture of my little girl at her first concert.
I never got that snapshot, though, because a woman abruptly put her hand in front of my phone.
“Is that your little girl?” she yelled above the din of the music. When I said yes, the woman started yelling at me that my daughter was bothering her.
“This is no place for a child!” she screamed. Red-faced and angry, she continued, “I didn’t come here with my adult kids to have my night ruined by your little kid in my way!”
I stood there, frozen and shocked in the humid air as the sounds of Bon Jovi faded into the background. Not wanting to risk the situation escalating dangerously, I reached past the woman and pulled my daughter back to where my husband and son were standing. For the rest of the night, I fumed at the woman’s utter rudeness and complete lack of empathy for a small child.
When you have older children, it’s easy to forget the struggles of raising small children. Our days of strollers and diapers are long gone, and more and more, I’m reminded of just how far we’ve come in 13 years. And while I am secretly glad that I’m not the mom dealing with the tantrum in aisle four, I made a vow a long time ago to always have compassion when I see a mother with young children struggling.
I will always let the mother with a toddler and a newborn have the bathroom stall before me. I can hold it. A child at the age of 3 can’t.
I will always offer to help a mom load her car or hold her infant when her toddler is melting down. I will look in her tired eyes and simply say, “I’ve been where you are.”
I will always be available to help my friends with young children go to the dentist or the gynecologist alone. No one needs a 2-year-old peering at you as you have your lady bits examined.
I will always keep a stash of juice boxes and goldfish crackers in my pantry for the mom friend who is so harried that she forgot her diaper bag at home. I can’t deliver on a high chair though. Sorry, friend.
I will always remember what it was like to be yelled at by an angry older mother who has clearly forgotten that her college-aged kids once were 10-year-olds who couldn’t see over a crowd.
And when the day comes that I’m the older mom at a concert, I will be the first one to offer my shoulders so that a 10-year-old can see the band up close and personal.