Having never been to the opera before, I jumped at the chance to see my first one when a friend offered up a free ticket to The Magic Flute at the Metropolitan Opera. (Seriously, who could say no to box seats and sneaking in some serious people watching — hello, gowns and tuxes galore!) Although we were front and center for a performance in English, which is known for being a shorter and more kid-friendly show, as a childless 25-year-old I was pleasantly surprised to see just how many families brought their little ones along for the 7:30 p.m. show on a Monday night (the late start time is one thing, but considering the prices of tickets these days, I was seriously impressed).
As a parenting editor, I'm used to hearing about incidents of mom-shaming on a regular basis; however, my real-life lesson on public mom-shaming started just about the same time as the show did, and actually witnessing how brutal people can be was shocking.
My real-life lesson on public mom-shaming started just about the same time as the show did, and actually witnessing how brutal people can be was shocking.
Once my friend and I got up to our box and made ourselves comfortable, we waited to see if anyone else would be joining us there (each box seats about eight people and the quarters are fairly tight). Lo and behold, a family of five walks through the curtain with three children appearing to be around 13, 11, and 9 years old. The kiddos took their seats in front of us and, shortly after, the show began.
Maybe it's due to the nature of my profession, but I didn't fall out of my seat with shock when the two younger kids started exchanging a few whispers here and there. The Magic Flute is a comedy after all, and I'd be lying if I said there weren't a few hilarious innuendos and puns that had us all laughing.
So the whispering didn't bother me — but the one thing that did? The tremendous amount of side-eye this family got from the adults sitting nearby. And before you say, "Well, it's the opera, you should expect people to be a bit stuffy," I'm going to stop you, because the looks they were getting might as well have been laser beams capable of burning holes through their heads.
Though it can be distracting to see kids throwing full-out tantrums in the middle of a show, that was hardly the case in this instance. Although the boys snickered here and there and I may have seen a phone screen sneak out of a pocket once or twice (which, by the way, their mother snatched as soon as she saw), they weren't acting any differently than some of the adults watching the performance.
And just as an FYI to those people: moms are pretty astute to the facts that their kids aren't being as quiet as church mice and that your glares are pointed in their direction. This particular mom was no exception to that fact. She kept jabbing her kids in their sides throughout the show (and, without question, was launching some serious threats of grounding in their direction), which, to be honest, was actually more distracting to me than the boys going back and forth in the first place.
If we want operas and other important parts of culture to exist in 50 years, we need to expose our kids to them.
However, I'd like to point out how important it is that this family was exposing their children to the arts in the first place. Hell, I went to my first opera at 25, and many people never go at all. Frankly, I'd take a couple of whispering teens who are actually learning about the fine arts rather than no one representing the younger generation at the theater at all.
The bottom line: if we want operas and other important parts of culture to exist in 50 years, we need to expose our kids to them. So the next time you sit behind of a child who's less than perfectly behaved, give them the benefit of the doubt. We should all be f*cking thrilled they're there in the first place (and don't even try to tell me you wouldn't laugh at at a man in tights comparing his junk to a "magic flute").