Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Off-Beat

Monday, March 3, 2014
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I should've seen it coming.

I should’ve seen it coming.

I knew she’d ask me “that question” sooner or later.  I’d prepared for the moment, but when it happened, I stumbled. I stuttered. I stammered.  I’d practiced my response for months; rehearsed it in my journal.  I wrote down all the clichés that would make understanding appropriate for her age level.  I read multiple articles about this topic, and I bought a few books to help me understand how times have changed.

My 10-year-old daughter is going off to middle school next year. I’ve been told that I must address these delicate issues before she sets foot in this new place. But, I waited until she asked the question that I’ve been dreading.

“Mom, what if I don’t fit in?”

Gotcha! You thought it was the big birds-n-bees talk, didn’t you? But this conversation is equally burdensome for a parent.  What if your child doesn’t fit in?  Did you?

I didn’t at first. Seventh grade was an awkward time (that phrase is spot on) in which I wore a denim jacket with every outfit.  I grew out of Palmetto jeans (not Guess) every other month, and my hair was as shocking as the gap between my front teeth. A bad perm was tinted a terrible shade of orange thanks to a bottle of Sun-In highlight spray, and it wasn’t complemented by bronzing makeup that stopped sharply at the jawline. I looked weird.  I was weird.  I carried my mother’s old Aigner purse, for heaven’s sake.  Think I’m over it?

My daughter popped the question on my bed one night, when she should’ve been fast asleep.  She lingered a little longer that evening, bouncing a foot like she was kicking an invisible soccer ball.  “What is it?” I asked, closing my book.

She crossed her legs into some type of yoga pose.  This was going to take awhile.

“What if I don’t fit in next year?”

Mike walked downstairs to check the door locks for the third time.

“What makes you think you won’t?” I countered.

She shrugged her shoulders.  “I had a bad dream a few nights ago that I was walking down the hallway, and I didn’t know where I was going.  A group of girls started laughing at me, and then one chased me through all these classrooms.”

I shuddered.  Dear God, that would scare anyone.

“And I couldn’t get away from her.”

My overly-analytical parenting style forced me into thinking that she was dreaming these horrible things to try to deal with deeply-rooted worries.  It was her mind’s way of bringing a problem to the surface (I guess). This also explains why she’s been in my bed for the last few mornings, watching the alarm clock.

“Are you treated that way now?” I asked.

She shook her head no.  I then asked how much TV she’d been watching, or if her books were too old for her.  She shook her head no again. “I’m reading about Jackie Kennedy,” she said. Well that Ethel could be a real bully, I joked.  She didn’t laugh.

“You’ll fit in because you and 50 other kids from your school are headed in the same direction,” I began.  “They’re not breaking off from the mix just yet.  But most of them are involved in something — dance, soccer, softball, gymnastics — which will make the first days of school a little easier,” I admitted.

Choosing to be uninvolved has ramifications. Inaction has consequences, too.  “These kids have been going to practices for years,” I warned her.  “So it’s a little late to start something truly competitive,” I said.

After reassuring her that she would have the best years of her life because of a friendly personality, a kind heart and a generous spirit, I shared my worries with a friend as soon as she got out of bed the next morning.

“She is an introvert,” I told her. “She holds back, and we might’ve encouraged it to keep her safe.”

“Then you know what, Katy?” my friend began, in a slightly edgy tone (which scared me).  “That’s when she picks up an instrument and she joins the band.”

I sat there for a moment.  I was in the band. I played the flute (because my cousin did), and then I switched to the saxophone (because my friend did), and then I tried out for the majorette corps (because my cousin and friend did).

“Since kids aren’t introduced to marching band until sixth grade, it doesn’t matter that she’s never had a lesson.”

I perked up.  THE BAND!

Why didn’t this occur to us?  She’s already a student of the Magnet School of Music at West Side Elementary.  Why wouldn’t she continue this interest? THE BAND!

That night (on my bed), I asked our girl what she thought about learning to play an instrument. Flute? Clarinet? Sax?

She curled her lip.

“Well, you have to do something,” I snapped. “That’s my new rule.  I don’t care if you run cross country or join the debate team, but if you’re worried about fitting in, then you need to find a group that will be a positive influence.”

“Oh no, it’s not that,” she exclaimed, fanning her arms in my face.  “I think I know what I want to do.”

I waited.  She smiled.  Then she laughed.  She tipped over on the bed and giggled some more.

“I want to play the drums.”

After a match of “No, you don’t” and “Yes, I do”, I withdrew from competition.  “You’re serious?” I asked.

“Yes. I want to play the drums and then the xylophone.”

“We’ll support you, but you’ll stick with it,” I replied, shocked that a book about Jackie Kennedy would be replaced by a biography of Ringo Starr.  A similar worry set in. Classmate reaction could go either way. Kids are so critical, especially of those who do something unusual. Fitting in and blending in aren’t exactly the same types of acceptance.

“I’m pretty sure that a tall girl with long, blonde hair and blue eyes pounding on a snare drum will most definitely stand out,” I said.

She never lost her smile. “And you and Dad can sit in the stands and watch!”

With bells on.

Great (and Not So Great) Expectations

Wednesday, July 17, 2013
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Sometimes, I think the hardest part of being a parent has nothing to do with my children and everything to do with how I react to other people.

I know most are well-intentioned, but their expectations of my children are sometimes completely off base.

Take, for example, the assumptions people automatically make about my teenage son and the sports he plays.

The thing is, my son has never had much interest in playing sports, and when he hit adolescence, he lost any interest he once had.

Over the years, I’ve come to accept that their questions have absolutely nothing to do with my son and have everything to do with other people’s perceptions of how the world works. They are trying to make conversation and often feel bad when their efforts fall flat.

So I generally try to move the conversation forward by talking about his musical interests.

But a few weeks ago, I started redirecting questions about my daughter.

She has been rehearsing for a local stage production of the musical Annie, and naturally everyone is asking what character she is playing.

Initially, I said “she is only in the chorus.”

But Kendall doesn’t think she is “only” in the chorus. She believes she is a part of something great, and she doesn’t care that she doesn’t have a speaking role.

She simply loves the theater.

She’s always loved singing and dressing up, and musical theater provides the opportunity to do both. While I am surrounded by parents bragging about their children’s roles, I’m not bragging at all. Instead, I am watching my daughter glow because she is doing what she loves.

Her happiness on the stage has served as yet another learning stage for me as a parent.

There is nothing wrong with having pride when our children excel, but there is even greater satisfaction witnessing them get passionate about something bigger than themselves.

It’s Dance Party Time

Tuesday, October 18, 2011
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I’m all for human growth and development, except it means sometimes your small people develop opinions that run contrary to your own.

Take my kids for example. They keep rejecting the music I like — The Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, Run-DMC — in favor of other stuff that is not as good.

And that’s why I am going to miss my time with Dan Zanes.

Dan is very skinny. And his hair has a life of its own.

 

Dan, I think our time is over. Unless I sneak and play your music and hope no one catches me.

(Which I will.)

That’s because Dan Zanes plays kids music an adult can love. Good lyrics, great guitar hooks, silly fun — all without artificial sweetener. And he’s got great hair that defies gravity.

I first got acquainted with Dan during The Playhouse Disney years. And I thought, “This guy does not irritate me.” And then I thought, “I like this guy.”

And soon I was buying CDs.

And forcing my children to listen.

And, when the children were not around, “accidentally” keeping the CDs playing while I was driving.

This is before Dan invited us to dance.

And then I found myself buying tickets to go see Dan and his friends perform in Columbus, Ohio. I can tell you without reservation or embarrassment or even proper grammar that it was one of the most funnest concerts I’ve ever been to. We entered the auditorium and dutifully sat down where our tickets indicated. Dan played one song and then invited everybody up out of their seats to come dance down front. This was revolutionary and stunning! And so we did it!

We grooved to “Catch That Train,” “Rock Island Line,” “Polly Wolly Doodle” and lots of other great songs.

My kids are getting older now and are embarrassed by stuff they think is for little kids. So I’m sure I can’t talk them into going to a Dan Zanes show any more. And I probably won’t be able to play Dan’s music any more, unless I sneak it.

But there’s hope for you parents of younger kids… Dan has a new CD out. It’s “Little Nut Tree” and it features performances by Andrew Bird, Sharon Jones, Joan Osborne, Shine and the Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars.

Furthermore, Dan and his friends are touring within road-trippin’ distance of this area:

Saturday, Nov. 12 (4 p.m.)
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA

Sunday, Nov. 13 (1 p.m.)
Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, OH

Do yourself a favor and go check him out.

And get up and dance!

I feel good… and I love you

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
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A few weeks ago I decided to download this new and exciting app to my phone, called Pandora. It’s the hot new thing, and I’m always on the cutting edge of whatever is new.

OK, Pandora apps have been around since 2008 and the website even longer, and I’m rarely on the cutting edge of anything. In reality, my mother got the app for her phone and I felt like an old fogey and decided to download it myself.

Since that time, it’s on quite often. My son has a few hit channels that he enjoys. They are — and get ready because I’m not joking for once — in order, James Brown Radio, The Sugarhill Gang and Barney’s Children’s Station.

It’s quite an eyebrow-raising mix. Let me start with a disclaimer that I try to keep crude language away from his sensitive ears, so he doesn’t listen to EVERY song that comes up. That Barney drops four letter words like crazy.

Our favorite songs are “I Feel Good,” “Apache” and “I Love You, You Love Me.” What a collection. The first two are solely (and soul-ly) for dancing. The mancub loves to clap along with “So good! *clap clap* So good! *clap clap* I got you!”

For exercise, we love to “jump on it” with The Sugarhill Gang’s “Apache.” It’s a 6-minute song, and trust me, by the end we are both breaking a sweat. We definitely do it Fresh Prince-style.

Then there’s the sweet song. Barney’s “I Love You.” The song that made me want to poke my eyes out with chopsticks when my siblings were little has come back to haunt me. However, it’s much sweeter when my son sings it, accompanied with the hug and kiss he offers at the song’s cue. I’m actually starting to like Barney a little.

I was joking with my boyfriend the other day, while we were putting the babe to bed, that he is a music teacher, yet he doesn’t know any kids songs. Put on a Phish album, and he’ll sing every word. Strike up the band to sing-along with “Skidamarink a dink a dink” or “These are my glasses” and he’s lost.

But, kid music does not have to be traditional kid music. As Brad McElhinny pointed out, you might not even want your kid listening to “kid music.” A little funk is good for the body and the brain.

What are your favorite sing-along tunes?

A little drummer boy gets Christmas in August

Wednesday, August 3, 2011
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Last night, as the sun set over the mighty Kanawha, we nestled in with several hundred of our closest friends to watch Drums Across the Tri-State at Laidley Field.

My son, two weeks shy of his second birthday, perched on the edge of his seat, eyes square on the field. Not a hair on his body moved as he watched the vibraphones and marimbas rolled in or as the color guard placed their flags around the field’s perimeter.

Finally, the band marched on the field and my little guy held up his chubby hand, index finger extended, and shouted “DRUMS!”

He reached for his sticks and started clicking along with the drum corps, ready for the show to start.

The shirt says, "Eat, Sleep, Play, Repeat." It's not just a saying, but a way of life.

His passion was getting ready to take the field, live and in color.

It’s weird to say my almost 2-year-old has a passion, but he does. The kid has an insatiable appetite for all things music, especially percussion and marching bands. Having a father that is a percussion director will do that to a kid, I suppose.

While we try not to force anything on our baby, it’s hard not to nourish the music-loving part of his being. Before he was born, when the musicians on his paternal side were sitting around wondering what instrument he would play, based off his ultrasound pics, someone said, “What if he doesn’t want to be in band?”

Well, that’s fine. Then he’ll just have to settle on being the goalie for the men’s national team. (I’m totally kidding… he’s going to be a striker.) But really, we nourish, but don’t demand. We force nothing, he chooses to play whenever he wants, if he wants.

When he was about 10 weeks old, my boyfriend’s drumline bought the babe his first set of drumsticks. We recently had to throw those away, because they were so broken, they were dangerous. He played with them constantly.

His paradiddle into an inverted grandma-pattyflafla-slap yo mama-book report is impressive, because he practices roughly 6 hours a day. Some kids like to color or play with dolls. He drums. He watches drum corps videos. He goes to drum practice with daddy and auntie (who rocks the vibes).

Every item in the house that is long and cylindrical has been used as a drumstick. But this love for music is not solely drums. It has matured to the piano, the vibraphone, the tuba, the guitar, the ukelele, the mandolin, the didgeridoo. Name something that makes noise, and the kid will try to play it.

Thoughts of a baby Mozart or Beethoven have definitely passed through our minds, though we know it’s unlikely we have a child genius on our hands.

As I sat back and watched him watching bands last night, I became happy and bittersweet at the same time, when I saw him enjoying Phantom Regiment, or any other marching band. I couldn’t help but think that, maybe, in 15 years, we could be sitting in the stands as he prepares to take the field with his corps.

So, momma-friends, what do you do when your child discovers their passion? What steps do you take to help them along?