“Should I bring my kids to Burning Man?”
I would like to propose that if you are asking the question, then the answer is “No.”
You should have an intimate understanding of the Burning Man experience before you decide. And that understanding is impossible without participation.
Here’s the thing: Burning Man is a rare opportunity to stretch your definition of who you are. You can allow yourself to be truly present and tune in to creative aspects of yourself long dormant. Surrounded by so much freedom, you have the ability to truly be yourself.
For this personal growth and transformation to occur, you need to let go of who you are in the default world. You’re a suburban, project manager, soccer coach, mud runner? Great. Give yourself the gift of being none of that at Burning Man. Be a dancing, singing, construction worker masseuse. Let it out!
The opportunities for this degree of personal exploration and expression are so rare…I would strongly suggest not experiencing your first Burn with the 24 hour responsibility and label of “Parent.”
There is simply no way to let go fully, while still being responsible for another person.
It would be like going to a donut, candy and sweets festival, but not giving yourself a break from your diet. You’re gonna miss out on a ton of treats.
If, after you have experienced Black Rock City, you want to gift that experience to your children, that is a valid choice. It is a huge sacrifice, but certainly a valid choice. Many parents do it and have amazing experiences. I know a number of wonderful young adults who grew up as dusty little Burners. In fact, Kidsville is a huge village of family campers who make it work beautifully.
But make no mistake that your experience will be different.
It is like the difference between going to Disneyland by yourself, vs. taking your kids.
If you take your kids, “you” are no longer having a Disneyland experience. You are giving the gift of Disneyland to them. Your choice of rides, food, break times, etc. is dictated by your children. The joy on their sticky little faces is worth it, but it is a huge difference from running around the park with your friends.
And keep in mind that Disneyland has a massive infrastructure geared towards the needs of children and is rarely hit by dust storms. Plus, there is minimal nudity at Disneyland…unless you count the shirtcocking of Winnie The Pooh and Donald Duck.
Regarding sex and nakedness:
I was once in a camp that had a few sexually-themed activities planned. So when a couple in the camp announced they were bringing their kids, I was pissed. I was bothered enough to call a camp meeting. “I don’t want to have to keep my pants on just because you want to bring your kids!” I stormed.
But the couple explained their perspective beautifully:
“We don’t think anything ‘wrong’ happens at Burning Man. Yes, there is sex and drugs and art and weirdness…and it is wonderful. Are there parts of Black Rock City we need to protect our children from? Absolutely! But that is the case in the default world as well. If our kids happen upon something they don’t understand, we’ll explain it to them – just like we would anywhere…because we are their parents. There is far more in the default world that we are worried about than there is at Burning Man.”
I eventually got on board and welcomed the kids. It worked out fine. But I would make sure that the people you are camping with are also cool with having kids around the camp. Even if *you* are okay with your kids seeing adult activities, other people may not want to be seen – and forcing a minor into their experience deserves a conversation. Many wonderful parents leave their kids at home so they can forget their responsibilities for a week. Make sure your decision does not inhibit a fellow camper (or else make alternate, kid-friendly camping plans).
Look, only you know your kids and only you know what they can handle. But I strongly suggest going yourself, initially, so that you can make sure you know yourself, first.
NOTE: I am not a parent, so take all of the above with a grain of dust. Here is the official page on bringing kids. And make sure to check this great Quora thread for advice from Burner Parents. Have you brought your kids? What do YOU think?