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Linda & Richard Eyre: Finding identity that is larger than yourself

Published: Sunday, July 17 2011 3:56 p.m. MDT

Last week, I (Richard) had to leave our Bear Lake family reunion for a few hours to tend to some business in Salt Lake City, and since I couldn't drive back until the next morning, I checked out my entertainment options.

The band Owl City was playing down by Gateway, and the Triple-A All Star Game was on at SpringMobile ballpark.

Since Owl City is one of the few rock bands I like (actually one of the few that I know) I bought a ticket.

The venue was standing-only, no seats, so I lined up, older by 25 years than anyone else there, hoping to get a good spot. After a sweaty hour waiting in the hot evening sun, we crammed into an even hotter space inside and stood wall-to wall with just enough space to breathe. Then we all waited another hour until the warm-up act finally started playing.

I just observed. I decided it was something I couldn't understand. A couple of thousand teens and twenty-somethings jammed into a place too loud for any conversation and too crowded for any comfort.

Are they really enjoying this? Or is it just less lonely than being somewhere else? Does it fulfill some need to belong? Does the crowd and the loud music give these kids some form of identity larger than themselves?

I thought of a piece I had read on why kids join gangs. It was for the ritual, for the tradition, for the belonging, for the identity of it all!

After standing for another uncomfortable hour, and unimpressed with the warm-up act, I got my hand stamped and slipped out and drove to the ballgame. I watched the five middle innings, passing time with the national pastime, waiting until it was late enough that Owl City might actually be on stage.

Now baseball is something I can understand … sitting in a comfortable chair on a clear night with a nearly full moon rising above the Wasatch Range out over left field. The game, the strategies and signs, even the smells and sounds of baseball, are appealing.

I started thinking again about the kids at the concert. They are part of a culture. It is a peer culture and a media culture and an electronic culture and a rock culture, and there is nothing wrong with most of it.

It's not quite as good as a baseball culture in my mind, but it's certainly better than a "bar culture," which is even harder to understand — people crammed into a small, loud, confusing room, drinking and trying to find someone of interest to go home with.

How do all these "cultures" affect our children, and how should parents respond to them?

Perhaps a simple way to state the goal of all conscientious parents is "to create a family culture that is stronger and more influential than all the other cultures that children are a part of."

We can do it through family traditions and rituals, through time spent together, and through a never-ending effort to communicate.

By the way, I went back to the concert after the seventh inning … and Owl City was GOOD!

So I backed off of some of my behavioral analysis — maybe the reason most of them came is simpler than I thought … maybe they love the music!

The Eyres' next book is "The Entitlement Trap: How to Rescue Your Child With a New Family System of Choosing, Earning, and Ownership." Richard and Linda are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com. For information about preordering "The Entitlement Trap," see www.valuesparenting.com.

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