The crowd of kids at the Fred Penner concert were mostly too young to appreciate what they were attending. Parents paid for 3 tickets to bring one child to a show that, for an hour, they’d mostly squirm and cry through. But family night outs come few and far between when you’ve got toddlers and infants, so I can see why they’d make a go of it.
We did, even though our boys are far too old to be clapping along to songs about cats, sandwiches, and growing up.
Fred Penner‘s wheelhouse audience is the preschool set, three to five year olds who love short bouncy songs about silly things. Our boys are 6 and 9 yrs old and are more into Run DMC than Penner. Still, we went because Fred Penner is my wife’s favorite children’s performer. You might dig Raffi from when you were younger, or Sharon Lois and Bram, my wife loves Fred.
So we went so she could smile and laugh.
And just as Mommyfriend celebrated the passage of the years as a parent at that Killers concert with her boys, my wife and I sat and looked at the crowd of kids around us and had a moment of reflection.
Infants with bottles, far too young to appreciate any sense of where they were, but parents still trying to do something to get out of the house. Toddlers bouncing between parents, squirming in their seats, and eventually moving out into the aisles where they could dance.
And, in a theatre where the aisles are sloped to the front, the dance party grew, and moved. 20 minutes in they were in the aisles, 40 minutes in they were all at the front, 50 or more preschoolers in a wild mosh pit of energy.
Penner worked the crowd wonderfully. Before each song, he’d have kids take a deep breath, he’d teach sing back refrains, or clap along parts. Sure, the kids stared blankly when he nodded to the parents with a few bars of Stairway to Heaven, but they were all there in his palm.
And my kids were cemented into their seats. They did some sing backs, they did some clapalongs, they had ‘fun,’ but they weren’t fully into it. Our kids were too old for this show, we knew that, and after 45 minutes Charlie was bored and asking to leave, so we waited in the lobby while Jen and Zacharie waited for the climax of The Cat Came back.
Just before Penner launched into his biggest hit, he asked the mosh pit to return to their seats so the show could end without anyone getting lost.
All hell broke loose. There were tears, kids were kicking as they were picked up and carried back, others negotiated with threenagers who stomped their feet and held their ground.
There were parts of the night where I missed the time when my kids would get up and dance and sing with glee, there were parts of the night I was glad to no longer have to negotiate with toddler terrorists.
Time’s marching on, friends. Every now and again you get a big beacon showing how far you’ve come, like our experience at the concert contrasting our school aged boys with the preschoolers. Then the yang to the yin comes and your Facebook feed fills with high school graduation photos.
We’ve come so far, we still have so long to go. And it will all be over far too soon.