When I was in college, I spent 4 spring breaks down in South Padre Island, and I loved each and every one of those bikini-clad-beer-bong-on-the-beach adventures. As a single mom with an actively engaged father, I currently enjoy the benefit of alternating spring breaks with the kids. Even though this is the year the boys are with dad, as a single mom with two kids, I’m also financially strained, and I can’t afford to head off to Hawaii with my BFF, AJ, for spring break this year. (Gosh, wouldn’t that be nice?) So, yet again, I will be enjoying a local staycation by heading up I35 to Austin for South by Southwest (SXSW).

For those of you who don’t get to enjoy a work-free/kid-free week of musical and comedic debauchery, I’ll spare you my excitement. However, I’d like to share last year’s incredible experience of taking my kids to the huge international festival up the road and encourage others to share the coolness of Austin and the uniqueness of SXSW with your little ones.

I have taken my boys up to SXSW for the last two years, and we love seeing all the insanity of the people trying to maintain their “uniqueness” while fitting in with the large crowds. One year, we painted our hair green and decorated our wagon with Shamrocks and just cruised around downtown Austin. Last year, I ambitiously decided to take them to the enormous free concert at Auditorium Shores, and it was my biggest mommy accomplishment up to that point. There’s something cosmic about being on a blanket out on the lawn, listening to great music, enjoying the happy energy of thousands of people having a wonderful shared experience, and sharing that joy with the people you love. At that concert, I fell in love with my boys all over again.

Here’s everything I did right that day:
We arrived when the doors opened at 3:00, scouted out the best the best spot (not too far from bathrooms/food/trash cans/overt pot smokers), and set-up camp.
I set the boundaries for running around. In a field that big, it was unreasonable to think they’d stay put on my blanket for several hours.
Suncreen multiple times.
I brought in water, which is allowed and highly recommended.
We listened to Flaming Lips music for 2 days leading up to the concert.
We decorated our wagon the day before while discussing things we might see and expect at a concert with more than 10,000 people.
Flasks are so easy to take in when you’ve got kids sitting on stuff in a wagon.

We left the other half of decorating the wagon for during the day while waiting for the concert to start at 8:00. This was a fantastic way to keep them entertained/occupied.
I packed flashlights.
I packed capes and masks and an assortment of costumes.
I wore shoes that I could sprint in.
I didn’t mind if my boys peed behind the port-o-potties when the line was 500 people deep.
Because we’d set up camp earlier, it was very easy to have a cool spot that all of my friends could find us to hang out and enjoy the concert together.
I packed pillows for them to sleep in the wagon…they were knocked out by the end of the concert.
I didn’t freak out when I smelled weed. That’s the smell of concerts.

One of my favorite moments? Well, that’s when I was holding my kid on my shoulders, and he was so overwhelmed by the cheers and the excitement of the crowd that he threw his hands in the air to reveal his Texas State hand signs and screamed “I love you, Mom!” loudly into the crowd. Everyone’s heart melted, and my little heart puddle felt very accomplished.

Kelly Stone is a sexual health educator and college lecturer who likes to think of her stand-up comedy as “edutainment”. She began performing in 2006 at an open mic in Philadelphia and has been hooked on comedy ever since. She hosts the monthly Hot Mess Comedy Show at Bar 141 in San Marcos, speaks to various universities on many different topics, watches Project Runway, and is still trying to figure out how to keep her boys from smearing Greek yogurt on the furniture.

Follow her on twitter: @funnykelly or help stop her kids when they are trying to run across a busy street. There’s safety in numbers.

Show Dates:

Tuesdays, Geeks Who Drink Pub Quiz, 8:00 pm, Tap Room, Free

Wednesday, March 19, San Marcos Game Night, 8:30 pm, Triple Crown, Free

Friday, March, 28, Hot Mess Comedy Show, 8:30 pm, Bar 141, $5

Wednesday, April 2, San Marcos Game Night, 8:30 pm, Triple Crown, Free