Last night I took my fourteen-year-old daughter and two of her best friends to the One Direction concert. I have been taking my daughter to concerts for a few years. Together, she and I have seen The Jonas Brothers, Camp Rock, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus (pre-twerking), Bruno Mars, Jingle Ball, and now 5 Seconds of Summer and One Direction.
Other people may cringe when they think of taking their teeny boppers to concerts. The shrill sound of teenage girls screaming is certainly not pleasant, the concerts can get late and the traffic can be terrible. But I really don’t mind. I like pop music. I like going to concerts. Most of all, I like spending time with my daughter.
For this concert, which was in celebration of her 14th birthday, we went all out. I got the girls white t-shirts and puffy fabric paint. They decorated their shirts with the name One Direction across the front, and the titles of the songs they love, along with the boys in the band – Liam, Niall, Harry, Louis and Zayn (I think I got those right – I had to Google it). I bought special window paint and they decorated my car with “Honk If You Love One Direction” smeared across my back window. On the way to the concert at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, lots of cars honked at us and we laughed and joked about all of the friends we were making on the Schuylkill Expressway. While they mostly chatted in the back seat and posted to Instagram, the girls were also very appreciative that I was taking them to the concert, thanking me several times.
At one point during the car ride my daughter asked me what concerts I went to when I was her age. I had to think, but told the girls that the first concert I saw was Donny & Marie and the Osmond Brothers at the Allentown Fair. I was in LOVE with Donny, and prayed every night that he would wait for me to get older so that I could marry him. I think the girls could relate – just substitute Donny with Harry Styles. I also went to the Genesis Invisible Touch concert (they had no idea who Genesis was), and later in high school I saw Aerosmith and REM. They thought it was cool that I saw Aerosmith – they knew who Steven Tyler is, the really old judge from American Idol.
Once we were at “the Linc,” I let the girls have their space. The three of them walked ahead of me, they picked out and bought their concert t-shirts, and they stood in line for french fries and water. We sat in our seats and I tried to fade into the background a bit, but I couldn’t help but stand up and dance along when 5 Seconds of Summer played their set. I thought the band was great, and agreed with the girls that the drummer was super cute.
There was about an hour between the opening act and when One Direction came on, and my daughter and her friends were hanging out and talking while I people watched, checked social media and enjoyed the beautiful evening. That’s when it happened. My daughter looked over and asked, “Mom, are you bored? Because you know next time you don’t have to come with us. Some of my friends are here by themselves.”
I must have looked shocked at that moment, and I think I said, “No, I’m fine. I’m good.” But in my head it was like a lightbulb went off. I looked around and realized there were lots of moms and dads here, but they were mostly with kids who were a bit younger, maybe 12 and under. Should I have let my daughter come to the concert alone with her friends? All at once I felt insecure, disappointed and a bit sad.
Perhaps there are moments in parenting that we don’t even realize are happening until they whack us over the head. Your kid has outgrown the car seat and you’re still trying to stuff them into it because they fit just fine yesterday. Your kid is ready for finger food but you keep feeding them mushy baby food because that was working pretty well. Your kid goes to pre-school and they don’t bat an eye, barely even say goodbye, and you’re bawling in the parking lot. Your kid learns to ride a two wheeler like a pro, and you are running behind them like an idiot. Your kid can work out a disagreement with a friend, do their homework by themselves, sleep over at a friend’s house and maybe even go to sleep away camp, and hey, weren’t you just changing this child’s diapers like a second ago?
This was clearly one of those moments. My daughter was basically saying that she was old enough to go to a concert alone with her friends, and you know what? She was right. She knew before I did. She is a well-adjusted, mature young woman who will soon be starting high school (!), and she can handle it. Like so many other times in the last fourteen years, just when I thought that I’ve got this shit down, things changed (again), and I had to get with the new program.
I sat back and looked at my daughter then and smiled. This is what we want as parents, isn’t it? To help our children grow, to move away from us, to not need us as much as they did yesterday. Because someday soon, they will be on their own making it all happen for themselves, and we’ll want them to be ready. We have to let them go, and allow them to take these small risks, whether it’s getting on that two-wheeler for the first time without training wheels or going to a concert with a couple of girlfriends without a parent. I was proud of my daughter at that moment, that she felt independent and confident and strong, and that she was ready to take another step away from me.
So here’s what I did. When One Direction came on stage, I stood up next to my daughter and her friends and sang my heart out (to the songs that I knew), realizing that this may be the last time for a long time that I’ll be at a concert with her.
“And we danced all night to the best song ever!”