Squirming kids don't belong in concert halls

March 08, 1994|By Elise T. Chisolm

International flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal recently stopped his concert at the Kennedy Center and asked the mother of a 9-year-old to take her out of the hall if the child was "going to fidget."

He did the same thing a year ago in Baltimore, citing a child's annoying behavior as the cause.

OK, perhaps Jean-Pierre has a temper, but I have to say I don't blame musicians for disliking the interruption of a disruptive child.

I say, good for Jean-Pierre, and good for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra -- they have a rule that children under 6 are not allowed at adult concerts. They offer alternatives such as children's concert series and programs.

Flutist James Galway, who recently performed with the Nashville Symphony, lectured the audience on politeness, saying that a Japanese audience of 2,000 sits in complete silence.

But don't misunderstand. This column is not about PC -- political correctness -- it is about PD -- please don't. Please don't take your hyperactive or undisciplined kid to adult concerts, plays, upscale restaurants and weddings.

I think Tom Kiefaber, owner of the Senator Theatre, expressed my sentiments when he told me, "There seems to be a group of parents who insists on taking their children everywhere as the ultimate accouterment to the yuppie lifestyle." He and his wife have a 2-year-old child, so he has some experience. Maybe that's why the theater doesn't allow children under 5 at evening films.

To be fair, the practice of taking kids out at night may stem from the fact that many times both parents work and want to be with their kids in the evening. But it's not enjoyable for those who want to hear or see a performance if babies or young children are squealing and squirming.

First, let me say I raised four children and I have five grandchildren. We did not take our four when they were babies to adult places. For one thing, it was too expensive to take them all.

If I sound Victorian -- that children should be seen and not heard -- I don't mean that. I am just saying there is a kind of epidemic of indulgence among parents, as in "love me, love my kids."

A neighbor just received a formal wedding invitation, and on the card it said, "Reception for adults only." Good for the bride and groom.

A friend of mine thinks they should have nonsmoking sections and nonchildren sections.

Wrong. I don't go for that. Some kids are well-behaved. I just want freedom from the unconcerned parents and their terrible 2s when I go out for enjoyment.

Harvey Shugarman, owner of Harvey's, a hot spot for upscale dining out in the Green Spring Valley, has one graceful solution to the problem of noisy children in his restaurant.

"We cater to kids here. We have place mats and crayons, a toy chest, children's menus, but if a baby is crying I have been known to ask the parents if I could hold the baby while they enjoy their meal."

Well, Harvey has bridged the gap nicely with patience and incentives. But I guess I haven't. Harvey has five kids. He says if they all go out, they go to McDonald's.

Am I judgmental? Yes. I don't want to hold someone else's crying baby during an entertainment event, nor do I want to slip on a piece of lettuce from the salad bar. I'd like to hear the sound of music.

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