I’ve decided to take my daughters to see the Berenstain Bears in NYC. They’ve always liked those country bears, and it seems like good times (to be clear, I’m also aware that the franchise has recently launched a new faith-based series -- not my cup of tea -- but this live show seems secular in nature).
Anyway, I expected that I would have to decide how much I was willing to pay to sit closer to the stage. I have always been a “rear mezzanine” theatergoer myself, but we all want better for our kids, so I was willing to consider something in the side-orchestra range. What I didn’t expect was the option to partake in the “grassy knoll” seats. Apparently, those who purchase VIB (Very Important Bear) tickets grant their kids the privilege to sit on astroturf grass and wear special bunny ears.
This option struck me as a bit divisive. It’s one thing to explain to my child that we can’t afford a good view of the show. It’s altogether another to have them watch other kids receiving such blatant perks. Sure, adult audiences can survive the envy they experience from seeing a fortunate few sitting in the box seats, but should we subject our 3-year olds to that feeling? Is there no longer a short but sacred time for children to believe that they all have an equal opportunity?
I realize that these are first-world problems: many families cannot afford to attend a show like this in the first place. Sure, the American dream may have always been a myth, but at least we had that myth. I remember a time when, once you paid the price for admission, everyone had the same experience. Now, preferred/VIP packages have become standard fare. At the circus, only kids in the premium-priced ringside seats get invited in the ring. Once, everyone waited in line at amusement parks. Now, front-of-the-line passes allow some children to legally cut in front of others who cannot afford that privilege. The implicit message seems to be: yes, money can buy anything.
Part of me wonders whether this early lesson can be a teaching moment. Life isn’t fair, but we can work together to make it just a bit fairer. I have a nagging suspicion, however, that my children will learn something else. Money buys access and opportunity, and without it, you will be kicked off the grassy knoll.