My baby was kicked out of the Sydney Opera House, and this is why it matters

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

I am a mother, and I'm a human. My husband he's a father and he's is also a human. In fact, our seven month old baby boy is also a human. Shocking, right?

So, there we were, these three humans, at a talk at the Sydney Opera house; a talk on humans, nonetheless.

Brandon Stanton, of the acclaimed blog, Humans of New York, performed two talks in Sydney on Saturday.

His blog has amassed over seven million followers on Instagram, for his ability to capture humanity, in intimate, and insightful, stories teamed with portraits of people (humans).

I was not apprehensive, as our son, cannot yet talk. Most afternoons we sit on a busy corner in the city and people watch, as he happily, and quietly smiles.

I imagine him one day reading the blog, finding the stories fascinating, just as he already finds humans in the street.

We took our seats in a box, on the aisle. The show commenced and I breastfeed my baby. After he finished his feed, he sat on my lap making the occasional happy coo.

No cries, no babbles, simply the occasional happy and quiet coo. He liked the show!

Considerate to the surrounding audience, that even an occasional coo, may be distracting – I exited the box and stood at the back of the Opera House.

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An usher approached me, barbing me with her words "you have to keep your baby quiet or you have to leave".

Prior to attending I looked at the sites age and rules FAQ.

"Children aged 15 years and under must be accompanied at all times. Children aged 0-23 months  at the time of a performance may be seated on a parent's lap free of charge.  All children occupying a seat or aged 2 years of age must hold a valid ticket," it read.

I didn't expect to have to leave, for anything less than cries, or nappy changes.

The usher looked uncomfortable saying this to me, embarrassed somehow.

Shame and surprise washing over me, I asked where the door was, to confirm if we did become disruptive; I would be able to swiftly leave, with minimal interruption.

The ushers embarrassed glance was quickly replaced with relief, as she took my question as confirmation to rush me out the exit into the lobby, with the promise I could look at the "amazing water views".

Was it the usher who deemed the baby coos too loud, did I have bad theatre etiquette, or had someone complained about us?

All I knew; was that I felt I had been shunned for being there, and asked to leave, albeit temporarily.

Whilst I waited in the lobby for the talk to conclude, I pondered what would Brandon, an expectant father himself, dissect from my situation. 

After contacting them about the incident, a Sydney Opera House spokesperson told me the top priority of the iconic venue's management was "to ensure all patrons experience Sydney Opera House performances and events to the highest possible standard in a safe and welcoming environment."

"We are a family-friendly venue, and it is always our intention to show compassion and understanding for patrons with young infants.  We must balance this approach with ensuring the wider audience experience is not compromised.

"From time to time, our front of house staff kindly request that parents or carers step outside the venue for a short time while their infant settles, before returning to their seat and enjoying the remainder of the performance."

So here I ask - what are the rules for parents and babies in the arts?

Are baby coos and babbles allowed? If not, then are adult murmurs to their seat mates allowed? Are adults able to say bravo, bravo mid concerts? Can we laugh? Can we cry if a piece moves us?

Every child, like every adult is different. Whether one is able to enjoy a performance depends on a range of factors, including temperament.

Is a well behaved baby less welcomed than an adult that coughs or whispers?

I assume most parents, like myself, know their children, and would not take a baby to a theatre show if they did not think it was viable.

There are very few programs specifically designed for babies, this lack of offering suggests a new parent's love of the arts should take a hiatus until their children are grown. 

Established arts scene such as London's West End, and New York Broadway often have a no infants policy, however the Sydney's arts scene is seeking to attract the young audience, with many companies offering discounted tickets to the under 30s.

Sedentary activities such as reading, playing with toys, and listening to stories are positive for children's learning and development.

For a quiet baby, is an engaging talk, that dissimilar to story time at a local library?

We parent in an age, where the use of ipads, or TVs, for young children, is prevalent, and criticised. The Health Department states that evidence suggests any TV watched in the first two years of life may be connected with delays in language development.

To encourage a love and commitment to the arts from a young age, if a baby (or child) is able to sit without disrupting a performance, we should actively encourage this.

And yes, should a babe-in-arms become disruptive, they, like any other audience member should exit the show.

The old saying goes, it takes a village to help raise a baby, perhaps in 2018, I could request that society would help raise one.