It’s a rite of passage to let your child go to a pop culture heartthrob concert, at least once in their life. Just ask anyone of any age what their concert was -- or the one they were most desperate to go to -- everyone has one. (Full disclosure: Mine was Shaun Cassidy. Da doo ron ron. Sigh.)
But when should parents draw the line on indulging such a crush? Paying scalper prices for Justin Bieber floor seat tickets? Fine. Allowing a Justin Bieber tattoo? No way! Letting them skip a day of school for the One Direction concert on TODAY’s plaza? Fine. Letting them enroll in British boarding school to better stalk Harry Styles? No way!
I recently took my 13-year-old to her crush concert – yes, The Biebs – and now consider that box checked. The indulgence included pricey tickets and a very late night on a school night. When she asked to skip her morning classes the next day so she could sleep in, the answer was easy: No way.
While the concert was filled with other teens and plenty of parents, there was also a surprising number of young kids. A mom in front of me had four kids – ranging in age from 4-weeks-old to 10. (I insisted the mom use my extra pair of earplugs in the newborn’s ears. Seriously, lady?!) Many concert goers came via limousines and “party” buses. Every person but my daughter got to buy a spendy concert T-shirt. (That's what she claims, anyway; I agree the lines for concert tees were super long.)
Some of the fans in today’s One Direction audience flew from other states; others took trains or buses or their parents drove them. (Who paid for their tickets, or the gas, we wonder?) Many camped out, missing school (and, for parents, work).
Suffice it to say, the heartthrob crush can get quite expensive.
Robin Alvarez of Sarasota, Fla., brought 14-year-old daughter Caitlyn to New York to see One Direction as a birthday present. They flew in with some friends on Sunday and all camped out together last night.
Alvarez says giving her daughter the concert experience of a lifetime was totally worth it.
“The girls are good students. They are committed to doing gymnastics, they’re just good kids, and we like to reward them by doing stuff like this. If we can make it happen, we’ll make it happen,” said Alvarez. “We’re not ‘crazy crazy crazy’ [as in, the One D song], haha.”
Patty Bousetta of Huntington, N.Y., brought 13-year-old Brianna to the concert, and while it wasn’t a long drive to get there, she says she would be willing to fly as far as Los Angeles to take her daughter to a One D concert. Of her daughter’s One D crush, Bousetta thinks it’s mostly harmless.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but she gets too crazy about it. She’s always looking at her phone at the Twitter updates and where they are and what they’re doing. They were on a show the other night and she was hyperventilating in front of the TV,” said Bousetta. She doesn’t worry, though, since she remembers her own childhood crushes on Andy Gibb and Leif Garrett.
“As long as she’s keeping up her school work and doing other things, but if she becomes obsessive about it, then I would say there’s a problem and I would have to step in. But for right now I understand it. I’ve been there,” Bousetta said.
Psychologist and TODAY contributor Robi Ludwig says there’s nothing too worrisome about letting a kid indulge in a celebrity crush, but it’s important for parents to set limits and know when things are going too far. If a kids has missed too much school, then obviously they shouldn’t miss school for a concert, Ludwig says. Or if parents are spending money that’s out of their comfort zone, that’s a red flag.
Ludwig suggests that if concert tickets are too expensive, find another way to share your child’s interest. “Buy them a magazine or poster, or let them download all the songs off iTunes and listen to it with them. Indulge them in a way that’s meaningful to them,” she says.
As for giving kids the ultimate concert experience, Ludwig agrees that many parents have different motivations. Some may be wanting to repeat an experience their parent gave them as a child. Others may feel deprived at not having had the experience, so they don’t want their child to miss out.
Above all, kids should understand why the concert is a special event and why you, as a parent, think it has value and importance.
“Parents want to make kids happy, but it’s important to not go crazy and over the top because you are not doing your child any favors. It becomes the wrong message,” says Ludwig. "It becomes about bragging rights rather than what the essence is about, which is having an experience and being appreciative."
Ludwig has one more tip: If you splurge on one concert experience with your kids, don’t do it every time, lest they get spoiled. “If they want to do it again, tell them they have to contribute to it or work towards.”
My daughter already has her sights set on seeing Maroon 5 next year. Given that there are plenty of projects around our house she can help with and plenty of time to do it, it’s a deal I just might cut.
TODAY Editor Brandon Goodwin braved the One Direction crowds to contribute to this story.
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