The other weekend was the 7th annual Northern Voice social media conference. I’ve attended this conference many times in the past, and this time went avec Isaac.
I was a bit nervous about bringing him along, even though the conference has always been billed as welcoming kids, because of what happened last year.
Reader’s Digest Version for those who don’t want to click: There was a noisy baby during the Keynote. Some people thought this was okay, many didn’t.
After “Babygeddon 2010” I was one of the many who agreed with the “Anti-Noise” sentiment. I also have a permanent bug up my arse about anyone who (deliberately or not) acts as if their actions are allowed to negatively impact the comfort and enjoyment of everyone around them. So I really REALLY wanted to make sure I treated bringing Isaac along as the privilege it is, and that his inherent baby-ness didn’t take away from the experience for any of the other attendees.
From the number of cute-baby coos I got at the conference, and total lack of hearing anything about a “Babygeddon 2011” during or afterward, I’m calling this one a success.
I like to think it’s because I put a lot of thought into how I’d tackle attending the conference with a baby. Here’s what I came up with:
1. Know the event. I’d never, ever bring a baby along to one of those $3000/week professional conferences (as opposed to a more casual community event). Most of them expressly forbid anyone under 18 in the venue for liability reasons. This conference, however, has a long history of allowing parents to bring their kids along for the ride, assuming the parents can keep the kids safe and unobtrusive.
2. Know the Venue. I also made sure I was familiar with the venue and the places I’d be able to sneak away if things started to go sideways.
3. Know your baby. Isaac is still at a stage where he basically eats, sleeps and poops. And not much else. I knew he would pretty reliably sleep in a sling through sessions. Whenever he started to act like he was going to wake up (and I know he likes to announce the fact that he’s awake) I’d make sure I gathered everything together so I could bolt in a hurry with a minimum of disruption. I also left the sessions I attended just before they ended, to avoid the thunderous applause, which would’ve been almost sure to startle the kid.
4. Timing is Everything. I made sure I got to session rooms early so I could get a good spot near the door for a quick escape. I also kept a close eye on the time so I knew when Isaac would be likely to start to fuss and could be ready to dash.
5. Have a baby-wrangler. I didn’t plan as well as I could have for this one on Friday. I didn’t have a solid plan for handling Isaac during lunch or bathroom breaks. Thankfully I have some lovely friends who held the baby at lunch so I could wolf down a sandwich. I Brought Neil along Saturday to deal with almost all things baby, which worked out MUCH better. I just had to duck out for feedings.
6. Lower your expectations and have a Plan B. This last point was the biggest thing for me.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to attend all, or even any of the sessions if Isaac was having a bad day. I figured if the acoustic situation was the same for the Keynotes as it was in 2010 (thankfully it wasn’t), I’d miss them entirely. I was ready to admit dragging a baby along was a bad idea and just go home to drown my sorrows in chocolate cake and ice cream.
I had accepted that it was essentially okay to fail.
This is a very strange concept for me.
And it seems to be crucial to surviving life with baby. If the kid is having a terrible day, I just need to let him have that and try again tomorrow. The bad mood won’t last, the world won’t end, and I’ll have a chance to do something else to fulfill my grown-up needs sooner rather than later. Everything will be all right.
Any other parents out there want to chime in on bringing their babies to adult-oriented things? What works for you, both in keeping your kid from being disruptive, and maintaining your own sanity?