When I took my daughter to see a children’s production of The Princess and The Pea at a local theatre, I fully expected the drama on stage. But the theatrics in the audience were like a second show, which competed with the professional performance. And frankly, annoyed the crap out of me.
I understand that you want your kids to experience the excitement of live theatre. It truly is one of the few entertainment venues that is fun for kids and adults. But if your kid can’t sit still or is more interested in kicking the seat in front of him than watching what is unfolding on stage, please do the right thing and don’t bring him.
This particular show was recommended for kids ages five and up. In looking around the theatre, there were plenty of kids under five. Hell, there were a lot of kids under two. I’m not saying I never brought my son to a show when he was thriving in his DestructoBoy years. But I was prepared. Prepared with snacks, action figures and the willingness to leave if he was going to belt out a Laurie Berkner tune. It seems to me that as we live in our growing rude and inconsiderate parenting world, nobody seems to be prepared.
Actually, nobody seems to give a shit about being prepared.
Case in point: the mom and her son in the row behind us. The boy was about three. I could tell because the Terrible Two’s are a complete and utter fabrication, and this kid was clearly in the throes of his DestructoBoy-hood. That, and he was dressed head to toe in Thomas garb, including a conductor hat. So the first time he shouted out to the performers on stage, I let it slide. “THAT’S NOT A PRINCESS!!! THAT’S A MAN!!!” And then the second time. And the third. I threw the mom a look, as if to say, could you kindly shut your kid up? She shot me back a look as if to say, It’s really dark in here so I’m going to pretend like I can’t see you.
Listen, I’ve been there. I have two kids. I get that little ones don’t know that even though there are real live people right there on stage, you’re still supposed to be quiet, like in a movie theatre. But hello parents, that is your job to inform your kids of the Way Things Are. After the first outburst, the mom could have easily said, “I know you want to talk to the performers, but the rules are we have to be quiet and just listen.” Then if that doesn’t work, you employ the bribe or threat of your choice, “If you don’t _____, then you won’t get to _____.” Please. We all said we would never bribe and threaten, but we’ve all broken down. It’s quite effective.
So by the time Sir Topham Hatt behind me shouted his dozenth outburst, I turned around and said to him directly, “Hey buddy, if you want to talk, you need to whisper very quietly.” He stared at me. His mom stared at the stage. Pleasant tactic: 0. Annoying kid with oblivious mom: 1. After that, I turned around and shushed him every time he opened his mouth. The mom apparently had her night vision restored and shot me dirty looks. Where were the ushers? Shouldn’t they be the shushers?
In the section next to us was Offender #2. Observe: a mom with two kids quietly mesmerized with the show, one babbling baby on her lap, and one toddler who raced up and down the aisle, happily using his outside voice. Mom focused on giving her baby a bottle and ignored her chatty boy. I exchanged eye-rolls with another parent. I motioned for him to say or do something, since he was closer to the disturbance. He just shrugged.
Somebody please help me understand why it is acceptable for parents to knowingly allow their kids to be rude, but it’s apparently considered rude for another parent to try and keep the peace??? Are moms afraid of being seen as bitchy if they intervene? And what about dads? Maybe they don’t get involved because they have experienced the wrath of their own sleep-deprived, insecure yet competitive wife and are sure all moms are like this?
I found the theatre manager and told her honestly how I felt. The show was really great, we are big fans of the theatre, but the constant interruptions were beyond disruptive and will influence my decision to come back again. She shrugged and pointed to the program, where it proclaims “for ages five and up.” She said they can only make recommendations, but that it is up to parents to make the right call. I politely suggested that she either urge the ushers to do their jobs and keep everyone quiet, or look into providing on-site babysitting service for the duration of the show.
As we left the theatre, I felt as though I got gypped—like I missed half of the show due to shushing of other people’s kids and ringing in my left eardrum. I asked my daughter what she thought of the performance. “It was AWESOME!” she said as she skipped up the aisle. Did the loud kids in the audience bother her? “Nah. I was listening to the people on the stage so I decided not to hear anything else.”