The Pa’akai We Bring at Clark Theater – the good, the bad, and the ugly with a toddler

This late morning, after her swim class, Kaia was whisked off to the Clark Studio Theater at the Lincoln Center for her second-ever theater performance, The Pa’akai We Bring. Since she enjoyed her first theater performance just over a year ago that was very immersive and catered towards babies and young toddlers, I thought she’d enjoy another theater performance targeted at littles. Unfortunately, as soon as we entered the theater and I saw the regular tiered seating of chairs, I knew it was going to be hell. Because this theater performance definitely had a target audience of slightly older kids, probably elementary school age-plus, as opposed to babies and toddlers in Kaia’s age range. The description on the Lincoln Center site did not specify that, unfortunately. What 2-year-old child was going to sit still for an entire 60-minute theater performance? As soon as we walked in and I saw on the floor in front of the stage, Kaia immediately ran up onto the stage area and started jumping up and down. An assistant had to gently let me know that we weren’t allowed on the “stage” area. We were also supposed to meet my friends with their 1.5-plus-year-old, plus Kaia’s bestie who had recently moved to New Jersey and her mom.

My friends’ kid was quiet and sat almost the whole time. Kaia… did not. She sat quietly and watched whenever all the guitars and ukeleles came out, plus when the four performers sang in chorus. Other than that, she kept crying and yelling that she didn’t want to sit down, wanted to go home, and wanted to see her friend Jacob (who was sitting further back in the seating area). I had to take her out of the theater twice to get her to calm down and not ruin the performance for the others. At least she wasn’t the only kid crying or screaming; a number of parents were coming in and out to calm their own babies and toddlers. Needless to say, this was a bit hellish for me and I was waiting for the performance to be over. I’m sad to say that because the performers were very good — they sang well, and I liked the story line about introducing the cultural importance of salt in Hawaii. Kaia just couldn’t deal with the speaking scenes. Now, if only they had just played their string instruments the entire time and sang for 60 minutes straight, then maybe my rambunctious toddler would have sat still and watched…

You try to expose your child to culture and the arts at a young age, and this is how they repay you… with tantrums, as well as “Don’t ‘shhh’ me!” when you “shhh” them during the show…

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