I was talking to a co-worker who just got back from Cornerstone. And who, it turns out, was probably under the same tent roof as I was at the same festival eight years ago. Small world. He was commenting about how cool it was to see a lot of kids (of all ages) having fun freely being themselves in a relatively safe environment, and contrasting that to other music festivals. It’s a good point. My worldview has changed a lot since the last time I went to Cornerstone, but as step-parent and soon-to-be parent of an infant, I think I’d still be a lot more comfortable taking my family to a Christian counterculture music festival than to any of the other music or counterculture festivals I know of. The fact of the matter is that at Cornerstone, you actually have to try really hard to find drugs or alcohol. Even cigarettes are rare, for that matter. And while I’ve got nothing against any of those substances from a moral point of view, being drunk or high leads to irresponsibility, and irresponsibility doesn’t go well with young children. Neither does secondhand smoke.
Similarly, I adore Highland Farm and the friends I have there, but I’ve become nervous about taking the kids to events there, if nothing else because of pall of cigarette smoke that tends to gather around any gathering, and the unrelentingly adult nature of the conversations. I am far less protective than most parents I know – I believe in integrating the children as much as possible with our lives. But even I have my limits.
This is a repeated theme I’ve heard from a lot of people who circulate in non-traditional communities of many kinds. The family-friendly events just aren’t there. This is at least partly accounted for by the fact that people with non-traditional lifestyles tend to be less likely to have children. This is incredibly annoying for those of us who DO have kids. Especially since it really doesn’t take much to make an event family-friendly. You don’t have to completely change the nature of the event. It’s more about being sensitive and aware than anything else. Establish smoke-free areas (these are appreciated by more than just families with children). Make sure people know there are kids present, so they don’t drunkenly hit on a 13-year-old. Courtesy, ya know?
Anyone with experience of non-Christian, non-boring musical or cultural events which are genuinely family-friendly (and not just in a “we have a kiddie area for very young children” kind of way), please speak up.