In less than a month, my eleven-year-old son and I will enjoy a road trip to Cleveland to watch Judas Priest in concert; Thin Lizzy and Black Label Society will be opening for the headliner. This will be his first metal concert. We are both looking forward to this event, and we hope to walk away with some pleasant memories, as well as our hearing. Without a doubt, we will leave the arena with something to talk about.
When introducing music, movies, and literature to our children, we have made a concerted effort to filter what they are exposed to. We do not necessarily see it as the responsibility of publishers to determine what the general public is permitted to see. We appreciate the rating systems that give parents a heads-up as to what content might be unsuitable for various ages, but beyond that, we would like to think that we, as parents, have the final say as to what is appropriate for our children.
My son loves virtually all styles of music from some classical to most industrial. He enjoys many bands, and he has exposed me to musicians that I would not ordinarily have listened to. As he experiments with new types of music and suggests interests in certain groups, my wife and I listen first for age-inappropriate content.
We personally enjoy the music of Marilyn Manson, Eminem, and similar artists. Their messages, while often abrasive, are relevant; we believe that a time will come when our children will be able to enjoy the music and interpret the lyrics in context. We have told our son, however, that the material of these musicians (except for rare exceptions) is off-limits for now. We are not concerned about what they will learn; we are concerned about what they will not understand. Our basic guideline is: if they are old enough to ask, they are old enough to know.
Given the typical style of audience participation at rock concerts, I suspect that my son will have many questions before the night is through. My goal will be to sit down with him before the event, letting him know what he might see and how he might want to handle given situations.
We raise our children to understand that marijuana is illegal, and that, while smoking in general is bad for you, smoking marijuana (grass, weed, joint, doobie, what-have-you) will get you cuffed and locked away for at least a night, perhaps five years or more depending on what state you live in. As well, we raise our children to understand that when you leave the house, you dress appropriately for the weather and for walking about in public. Schools have a dress-code as well, so this message is immediately reinforced. It is understood that you do not take your clothes off and throw them about. Flashing is also inappropriate. Finally, we explain to our children that the society in general will measure them not only by what they smoke or what they wear, but also by the vocabulary they use; in other words, cussing is a bad thing.
The discussion I will have with my son before we enter the concert arena is that he will in all likelihood see more rules broken during the concert than he will in a study hall or on the playground. He will see smoking. He will hear foul language. He will see scantily clad women, in various stages of undress. He may be shocked; he may be titillated. I know that I will be shocked if he is not, for that would indicate he knows more than what he is letting on. At any rate, my goal is to prepare him for some facts of life that skew what we have raised him to believe true and proper. We think it is okay for him to get the message that rules will be broken, and that while he might not break them, others might and that is okay in this environment. Our place is not to judge them.
We raise our kids to realize that while they do have some duty to society to follow the rules, they also have a duty to themselves, and ultimately, we have to monitor our own behavior and not necessarily judge others for theirs. For the purposes of the concert, we are all family. All that attend love one or more of the bands, and we are there to commune together and have a good time. With the understanding that no one is there to overtly offend their neighbor, withholding judgment is a positive attribute and a positive message to my son.