Wednesday, September 22, 2010

ACL on the horizon. And the kids are going to be alright.

Ah, the Austin City Limits festival!

I am particularly excited about this year's ACL because (1) I am not pregnant, (2) it's in mid-October so maybe it won't be over 100 degrees, (3) I have new sassy rain boots and a bright orange poncho to wear in case it rains, (4) I have access to one of the backstage VIP areas (free drinks and snacks! clean porta-potties!), and (5) both of my kids are finally old enough to go for at least a few hours.

ACL being much on my mind at the moment, here are some bossy and somewhat judgmental observations about attending ACL with young kids (under 6, in my case):

1. Know and respect your family's limits. Do you really think your 3-year-old can handle the full 11 a.m. -10 p.m. day at ACL? In the heat/rain/noise? Getting stepped on by staggering college kids in the dark? I think you know the answer. Consider this schedule: get there right when the gates open, early in the day for some non-crowded fun. Start out in the covered CLEAR4G tent (i.e., what used to be called the gospel tent - I don't know if people still refer to it that way) for some rousing gospel tunes and then go a couple of hours at the Austin Kiddie Limits area. Kiddie Limits is awesome. Last year I actually had more fun there than anywhere and not just because E got to go on stage with Lulu from Thievery Corporation (see photo below). It's nice and shady, the bands are fun, there are all kinds of art and other activities for the kids, and it's next to the volleyball sand pits. Which they turn into a "beach" and which are also shaded. Walk around a bit to hear parts of some non-kid bands, have some late lunch, maybe head back to the "beach."

Then right as they are about to get to their grumpy place, which is sometime in the mid-afternoon for us, take them the heck home (or better yet, have them retrieved at Shady Grove or somewhere), leave them with a family member or sitter, and go back out to have grown up throw down time. OR, if the back and forth travel isn't an option (i.e., you bought two one-day passes instead of a wristband, SUCKAH!), consider having one day be "for the kids' sake" only, design that day totally from their perspective, and then go on the other day with just adults.

While I am generally of the "just try it!" mentality when it comes to adventures with kids like dining out in nice restaurants, camping, airline travel, or sitting through a full-length church service, I also believe you have to know when it's time to throw in the burp rag. If your monkey has completely lost it and is showing signs of dehydration, I don't care how much you paid for that ticket or how bad you want to see The Black Keys, pack it up and get her home asap. Sheesh. You're just making her, yourself, and everyone around you miserable.

2. Hydration, shade and sunscreen. Duh. Obvious, but had to mention it. I've seen some bad deals in past years. As in I-should-probably-have-called-CPS level bad.

3. Respect other festival goers. I know this sounds preachy, but . . .please don't make all the other parents look bad by, for example, wheeling your massive double-BOB up and parking it where you know darn well the dance pit is going to be. Please do not change poopy diapers right there in front of everyone! I know you are tired and you worked hard to position your blanket just so, but go over near the porta potties or behind a tree to do that. Don't let your kids run madly around and bother people who are there without kids - either because they don't have them or because they are paying someone $150 to keep them all day so they can by gosh enjoy the festival. Common sense, parents, common sense.

4. Food. Food at ACL is generally pretty fantastic for festival food, but it's expensive and they don't always like it, which can make the $7.50 per sandwich investment painful. Feed them a HUGE breakfast and last minute snack and then it won't be such an issue. Oh, and the sauce on those yummy Hudson's chicken cones is spicy - watch out for that.

5. Don't be confined to the kids area. Maybe a bit contrary to #1 above, let them try enjoying some "grown up" bands if things are going well. Just don't be a jerk (see #3 above) and don't try to force them to tolerate wall-to-wall sweaty stranger bodies or standing in front of a blaring speaker because you want to be close to the action. We tend to hover around the edges of the crowd. Dance, world music, gospel (the clapping! the swaying!), and hip-hop were all generally popular choices for my preschooler even if she wasn't familiar with the act. Oh, and if there is a Jack Johnson sound-alike playing this year, I guarantee they will love that dude. My girls think Jack Johnson is a kids' musician. And. . .they kind of have a point there, don't they?

6. Be prepared, but don't load yourself down with too much crap. I have seen some families make a Beverly Hillbillies thing of it and have one parent camp out at the "kids beach" with loads of supplies and sand toys and chairs and whatnot, and they use that area as a home base for their festival exploration operations. I think this might work okay if you have a group of several parents and slightly older kids than mine (mine are 3 and 5), but I like being mobile.

My ACL bag will have water, one snack per kid (shhhhh!), sunscreen, lip balm, sani-wipes, hand sanitizer, a fully charged cell phone, maybe a small camera, cash/cards/id, bandaids, a copy of the schedule and one insect wipe towelette (OFF makes them - yes, I know they are not natural, plant-based repellents in the OFF. Sometimes you have to go with the chemicals to get the convenience). Maybe some rain gear if that looks to be necessary. No blanket, no chairs. I even go stroller-free, but I am that way.

7. Safety first. See March 16 post below on crowd/festival safety. The "Tag a Kid" thing is key.
8. Relax some limits and get a little goofy. Let them get really dirty, let them have the extra sugar and the lemonade, let them get inappropriate temporary tattoos. Let them see you cut loose and dance wildly in the rain. It's just one weekend.


treatment for headlice said...

VIP areas (free drinks and snacks! clean porta-potties!), and (5) both of my kids are finally old enough to go for at least a few hours.

Heidi Gollub said...

Hi Laura! This is such a great post! We were hoping to be able to feature it on, but I can't figure out how to contact you. Could you please shoot me an email if this would be okay? Thanks!