Public Enemy #1

Today, I was banned from Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Let me explain.

It all started out innocently. Last winter, Angel and I signed the boys up for the Wee Bop introduction to jazz class for preschoolers. They loved it - especially the days when real jazz musicians joined the class and played live while the kids scatted around the room with maracas and drums. It was kind of the best of both worlds - our kids were being exposed to real music and real musicians, while still having the freedom to express themselves as only preschoolers can (namely at high speeds and even higher decibels). They were allowed to learn a bit about the rich history of jazz in the United States while in an environment that tolerated the occasional (or-every-10-minute) developmentally appropriate nuclear meltdown.

Apparently that does NOT extend to the Jazz at Lincoln Center Family Matinee Series.

We have received the monthly schedule for a while now, but I've never gotten around to signing up for a Family Jazz Matinee before it was sold out. When I opened the envelope in early April, I IMMEDIATELY jumped online and signed up for 4 tickets. I read through all the details - no age restrictions or mentions of an intolerance-of-small-children in the marketing materials for the FAMILY Jazz Matinee. A few days later, the tickets arrived in the mail and were safely tucked away as I marked June 4, 3pm on our family calendar.

Today arrived and we were all excited. After brunch with 'Buela and Titi, we headed into the city and made our way to Columbus Circle. We arrived shortly before the performance was set to begin and found 4 seats in the back (ah, the joys of general admission) with easy access to the exit in case of emergency (or toddler nuclear meltdown). The room was glorious - floor to ceiling mirrors looking directly onto Central Park as a backdrop to the dapper jazz quartet at the front of the room. After a quick scan of our fellow hipsters, I noticed a broad spectrum of ages in the audience. Less kids than I expected, but hey - it WAS the family matinee so surely everything would be fine. This is where my kids learned to appreciate jazz in a safe environment mere months ago. We were going to have a ball!

The first song began and the boys' faces lit up like fireworks. Victor was bopping along in his seat, clapping his hands almost-to-the-beat. Little A sat back and took it all in - naming the instruments as they each took their solos. I swelled with maternal pride. This is what it was all about. Exposing our kids to culture! Music appreciation! This was going to be a GREAT family memory!

The first song ended and the director began a 7-minute-or-so soliloquey on the interconnectedness of jazz and classic American standards. Victor asked (semi-loudly), "Is it over? They're not playing music anymore. I think it's over." Angel began to fidget in his seat. I noticed a few irritated over-shoulder-glances and one flat out evil eye from an old lady a few rows up. I began to get uncomfortable. I gently hushed the boys and prayed that the next song would start soon.

Then, Victor decided that he wanted to talk about the curtain behind our seats. "Mooooommmmyy? UM, Mommy? What's that? What's that? What's that? What's THAT???" Mean old lady glared yet again. It took everything in me not to hiss, "It's a fucking FAMILY concert, you old bat! Keep your evil eye off my kids." Instead, I asked Victor to please be quiet. To which he responded (again, semi-loudly) "I don't want to be quiet. I don't WANT to be QUIET. I DON'T WANT TO BE QUIEEEETTTTT!!!!"

At this point, the usher tapped me on the shoulder and informed me that we would have to leave. Angel had stepped out to the men's room, so I was left solo to drag 2 uncooperative preschoolers, the snack and diaper bags out the side door while being stared at by roughly 300 people (no presssure...).

As the color rose to my cheeks, we finally reached the exit door and all but ran into my husband. I quietly informed him that we had been asked to leave and proceeded to find the program director - in part to ask for a refund (while the tickets were reasonable, four of anything ain't cheap...), but mainly to express my disappointment that the expected behavior of young children was not tolerated during the FAMILY matinee series.

I smiled and put on my business voice as I began to explain my opinion that the series was poorly marketed and should have had a program note before purchase that young children were not encouraged to attend. I explained, "I really don't understand how one could expect complete silence during a family matinee. Children, by their very nature, are going to make some amount of noise." Looking down her nose at me, she replied, "Well, if the children are being disruptive to other guests, we will have to ask them to step out to compose themselves."

A child composing themselves? Clearly this chick does not have kids....

I calmly replied, "I'm sorry, but it should be expected that children are going to be somewhat disruptive at some point." To which she quickly retorted, "Not ALL children are disruptive."

After daydreaming about punching her square in the middle of her self-righteous face, I chose to give her the dirtiest look I could muster and after what felt like 27 minutes of a staring contest replied as quietly as humanly possible, "Excuse me?"

She replied that she would check with the usher to see exactly what the situation was. By this point I was  fuming, barely able to contain myself. Honestly, if my kids had been behaving like the little lunatics I know they can be, that would be one thing. But they were actually behaving quite well! Not just for my kids...for ANY kids ages 2 and 4. They were asking questions about their environment. Making observations about the music and the sights around them. It was a remarkable setting and they were engaged.

It also didn't help that both Angel and Victor decided to throw the mother-of-all-temper-tantrums just as I was about to re-iterate that they were NOT misbehaving in the auditorium.

So, we left and spent the afternoon in Central Park.

It took me a while to calm down. I wasn't angry or disappointed in my children. They were just being kids. I wasn't embarrassed at being asked to leave. I was PISSED that an event touted as family-friendly was anything but.

So we can't enjoy Jazz at Lincoln Center with the kids for a few years. We can play our Miles Davis CDs at home. Crank Coltrane on the iPod in the car. What we won't do is EVER make our kids uncomfortable with who they are.

Or ask them to grow up before it's time....
Anonymous said...

Super lame! If the didn't want kids, it should say no kids. Any "family" includes kids, and they can't be expected to be silent or still.

Leah p

Anonymous said...

Do I need to posse up and come to Lincoln Center to defend the boys???? That is utterly ridiculous. We single folks know that anything that is billed as a "family" event is just code for crying babies and excited toddlers. That's where I take my rambunctious godson, but don't go for a quiet evening. The other part that is crazy is the girl's attitude. I don't care what she thought, she could've handled it a lot nicer. What ever happened to customer service.


Amy said...

I hope you at least got a refund. Family = kids of all ages. I have a 2 yr old & 4 yr old also. My 4 yr old was recently diagnosed w Autism. It's tough taking them out. My husband's family chooses fine dining restaurants & expect us to bring the boys. It's always a nightmare. People give us the stink eye for disrupting their meal, so we finally started saying no to fancy dinners w the boys. My mother-in-law assumes that if there is pizza on the menu, it's kid friendly. Uh, goat cheese & spinach pizza is not kid friendly. The final straw was when my 4 yr old had a meltdown at Target & as my hubs dragged him out kicking & screaming, I overheard a man call him a f'ing brat. My heart sank & I was ready to clean that asshole's clock. I walked away because you never know what kind of psychos are lurking in Houston. Bottom line is if they shouldn't say "family" if they don't want little ones there. Your children were treated poorly & that's a shame & disgrace. They were being normal 2 & 4 yr olds! Sounds like you & I have a lot in common. Check out my blog I added you to my blog list. :)

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