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I always figured I'd have no generation gap with my kids. After all, I was raised in the '60s and '70s, went to Grateful Dead concerts and was a vegetarian long before Gen X, Gen Y and the Millennials ever heard of tofu. But when my 15-year-old asked to get tickets to his first concert, I freaked out.
"You're not old enough," I said. "Bad things could happen."
"What do you think goes on?" he asked. "It's not like when you were young. Nobody's doing heroin in the bathroom!"
I assured him nobody was doing heroin at the concerts I went to either. But still, this wasn't Miley Cyrus or the Jonas Brothers. This was Kanye West at Madison Square Garden in the middle of New York City. So I decided to ask the experts—other moms—by posting a query on my Facebook page.
One mom said she wouldn't dream of letting her daughter attend a concert alone. But several others recalled what a milestone that first concert was, and how cool their moms were for allowing them to be there. A few mentioned Kanye's vibe, saying there wasn't likely to be trouble at his show.
Another parent made me feel like a neurotic worrywart—she lets her kids go to heavy metal concerts as long as they text her all night so she doesn't worry they've been crushed in the mosh pit. Mosh pit? Kanye suddenly seemed like the Boston Pops.
Even if I agreed, there was still the issue of how my son and his buddy would get home. Then the other boy's dad volunteered to meet them afterward and all problems seemed solved. Knowing they would face an adult as soon as the concert was over would likely keep them away from temptation.
The next day—yes, I somehow overcame my anxiety and managed to fall asleep—my son happily gave me the postmortem, raving over his photos. But then he shook his head and exclaimed, "Mom, can you believe parents brought little kids with them?! It wasn't a good environment for 10-year-olds."
His reaction was reassuring and familiar: It reminded me of the shock I felt when I first went to concerts and saw people drinking, smoking and otherwise behaving badly. But there was one big difference between my experience and my son's. When my parents let me go, at the tender age of 12 or 13, they had no idea what it would be like. But I did—and that's what made it so hard for me to give my son permission.
I never shared what I saw with my parents. Part of me felt that I had to protect them from reality, but most of all, I knew they'd never let me see another concert again. I guess my son figured I could deal, especially since I'd lived through it myself. And he also knew that once I said yes, there was no turning back. Like growing up, you can't stop the music.
Beth Harpaz has two sons. She writes about teenagers for the Associated Press and is the author of 13 Is the New 18.
Originally published in the October 1, 2011, issue of Family Circle magazine.