How loud is too loud? How much should children be protected?

One of the basic tenets of attachment parenting, as far as I can tell, is that childhood is a time to be protected, a time to be nurtured, and a time to grow within a safe and sheltered environment. Not to some obsessive degree, necessarily (though some people seem to go to extremes, as with anything else in life), but the idea is really that children should be allowed to have a childhood. There are other facets to attachment parenting, because it’s just as much about the parent’s side of things than the child’s side of things, but let me stay on topic for now: how protected should children be?

This is all coming up because I attended a reception at a professional conference last night and was surprised and upset to see parents attending the party with their four year old daughter and – more concerning to me – their approx. three month old baby. It’s not that children shouldn’t be at parties, I have no problem with that, it’s that the band that was playing was very, very loud. So loud that no-one at the party could talk or hear each other during the sets.

In a situation like that, it’s difficult not to ask them what they’re thinking, exposing their baby and daughter to a volume of sound equivalent to a jet engine. The daughter could ostensibly have held her ears and asked to leave the room, but the baby was fairly powerless in the situation: even if it would have been crying, no-one (including the parents) would have been able to hear it.

Which leads to the obvious question of how much protection is too much protection? When should parents just say no and leave venues in the interest of protecting their children, allowing them to have a childhood?

I’ve been equally surprised to find that when I go see movies like Saving Private Ryan that parents will drag along their young children and insist that they sit and stay seated. In that particular case, the boy was crying that he was scared and wanted to leave and the father insisted he stay and be quiet.

It’s the same basic question, though: when should children be shielded and when should other parents just stay quiet?

9 comments on “How loud is too loud? How much should children be protected?

  1. As the father in question, I want to take a chance to defend, or at least explain myself. We practice attachment parenting too, and we’ve found that one of the main ideas is that our life is the baby’s life; wherever we go, the baby goes. That way he can see the world through our eyes, and he’s always in the sling so we can keep track of his mood. It’s simply the natural thing for us. In the year that we’ve had him, we haven’t used a sitter once – one of us has always been with him. Our little Sammy, who is twelve months now, loves crowds and people watching, so we knew he’d really enjoy the reception. And we knew there would be live music, so we took a seat about halfway back in the hall and figured we’d wait it out to see what the volume levels were like. We decided to go by the children’s reactions, and use them to judge if it was too loud. Five-year-old Keirra (who is actually our niece) danced to it a little, and then went on to ignore it. She never once complained about it being too loud. And Sammy had had a big day already, so once the music started he decided it was nap time, and he snuggled down into the sling with a blanket around his ears to block out the sound. When he woke up a couple of hours later, we left right away so he could have a quiet snack from Mommy and then go home (we live just half an hour away from the conference center).
    So I can see where, as a bystander, you’d be concerned. And I appreciate it, since reading this now has me second guessing myself about whether we should have sat further back, or not been there at all, and what we’ll do the next time this comes up. But we like to think we’re developing a strong connection with our child, and we can read him pretty well. Especially since at twelve months he’s getting quite a personality. If the music was too loud for him, we like to think we’d have been able to pick up on the signs. When he’s in the sling I can definitely tell if he’s crying, and the first thing I do is try to figure out what’s causing it. He didn’t cry once during the whole reception, except for the whimpering he always does when he wakes up from a nap hungry. And Keirra is always good at letting us know when she’s annoyed, so she definitely would have told us if it was too loud. She’s not ashamed of plugging her ears, especially when the baby is yelling too loud for her.
    So thanks for your concern, but I think the kids were fine with the music. And it’s not like we do this every weekend. We usually listen to music and watch movies at home, so we can keep the volume low and stop it if they get bored. But I think they both had a fun, safe time at the reception.
    And next time we’ll probably look for a seat more towards the back!

  2. Thank you so much for coming to the site and responding. Rahima Baldwin-Darcy and I were talking about your response over tea this afternoon, as it happens, and it was clear to me that you point out one of the key dilemmas of attachment parenting: where do you draw the line between including the baby in your life and changing your life to meet the needs of the baby?
    Clearly it’s pretty hard not to have your schedule affected when you have a baby, but I think that my main concern when I saw you with the baby in a sling around your chest was that the band was just darn loud. Having said that, I’m pleased that you are both highly involved with parenting Sammy and that he’s still a darn lucky little fellow to have parents so engaged and involved in his nurture and childhood.

  3. look here music is a art and it has always been around its not going anywhere so turn up the volume and rock out if you have a problem with it then you should be shot or thrown into a moshpit and be trampled

  4. Infants should NOT be out in public places where they disrupt adult activities and catch diseases unnecessarily. No one wants your infant at an adult party, at a movie, at a restaurant and if you had a shred of manners or any care or concern for the infant you would not be there with it. Many people think that but your “mother” and “father” should told you and should have raised you to think of others not just yourselves. Unless your infant is SPECIFICALLY invited it isn’t wanted at someone’s house either. Most people put up with you when it is their job as members of society who want to see the infant grow up to be productive to speak to you.
    One cannot call those “parents” who bring an infant to any adult party or place unwanted/unneeded as above. And when there is loud music and they do nothing for the infant (like leave when they have been uncaring enough to show up) it just shows their utter and complete selfishness.
    And never bring small infants or small children to funerals. Too often those who are bereaved are speechless and unable to say anything when this happens. I believe there is a special place in Dante’s inferno for those of you who do that.

  5. “And never bring small infants or small children to funerals. Too often those who are bereaved are speechless and unable to say anything when this happens. I believe there is a special place in Dante’s inferno for those of you who do that.”
    My husband and I just attended a funeral with our six week old son. It was his (our son’s) Godmother’s father who had passed away and it was very important to us that we show our support. Not only had our friend assured us that she WANTED all three of us to be there, she seemed to find much comfort and solice in being able to snuggle her Godson.
    My husband and I sat at the very back of the room near the exit so that during the service when the baby needed to eat I was able to feed him in a private room, and when he showed the first signs of fussing I rushed out with him before he became disruptive.
    Assuming that the bereaved family has no objections, I see nothing wrong in attending a funeral with your baby. In the face of tragedy such as death, what could possibly be more positive or life-affirming than to see the sweetness of an infant?

  6. Honestly, I think that the appropriateness of bringing a baby along is dependent on the environment (e.g., too loud? too hot/cold?) and the wishes of the people who are controlling the space. If I go into a restaurant that has a children’s menu, I am unsurprised to see children there, even children that aren’t perfectly behaved. If the sign on the front door says “adults only, appropriately dressed” then I would be much more surprised.
    In terms of funerals, if the people organizing the event say it’s okay and/or you make it clear that you’re a team and for you to attend the funeral all two or three of you need to be there, then it’s between you and the organizers, not a different attendee. At least imho.

  7. I was just wondering, I bring my son along with me on my ride on mower. There is a flat part of my lawn that takes about an hour to do, my wife recently mentioned something about hurting his ears, my son enjoys his rides, he sings when we’re mowing & I honnestly don’t think that I’m hurting him, but I am curious though ! My son Hogan is 1.
    Signed a curious father,

  8. Curious Father, I have been told by many parents (such as my own and friends of mine) that if you have to yell over something to be heard, it is too loud. Now that may depend on the age but I think that for all ages including ourselves, we shouldn’t prolong our ears to such loud noises. It might not hurt your child’s ears instantly, but doing it often and for long periods of time (like the hour you mentioned) will. Maybe cut the time back and look into getting something to help cover his ears and “muffle” the noise. Hope this helps 🙂

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