As I pulled out of the driveway my 15 year old got on the phone with one of his friends. I wasn’t paying attention to his conversation, but rather searching for a radio station as I pulled onto the main street.
“Well aren’t you the clever one!!” I yelled out at him while attempting to keep my eyes on the road, “You wait until you have me on the spot to ask me don’t you??!! What did I tell you yesterday? I tooooold you to make sure he had a ride cuz I wasn’t going to go pick him UP! But noooo, now you have to put me on the spot, and I have no other choice but to pick him up, don’t I??!!”
Mind you I was yelling and there was a string of profanities injected between every other word while his friend was on the other end of the line listening and his best friend was sitting in the back seat. I was on my way to drop them off at band practice and once again my son was asking me to pick someone up, in this case the bassist who “was on the way there”, except he really didn’t live on the way there and that was aside from the fact that I had already told my son I was not going to pick up anyone (as I usually get stuck doing).
Before I continue any further, let me just put it out there right now so you can begin to understand where my frustration comes from: I cannot stand parents who are not supportive of their children and their passions, hobbies, and/or interests (and no I’m not talking about recreational drug use or any other illegal activity).
Allow me to set up the premise:
My 15 year old is a self-taught musician. He plays guitar, bass and drums. He has had his own band since he was 11 years old. (Check out Empty Presence on Youtube) A year later the band broke up due to musical differences. Inevitably, the boys were growing up and their interests in rock were evolving into different genres. This didn’t stop my son though. He would continue to form bands and over the last few years has played at various venues ranging from school concerts, house parties, skate parks, battle of the bands and even charity events. He has had the opportunity to perform on stage and share his love for music with audiences, has harnessed his skill and technique as a musician, and begun producing his own music composing and writing lyrics. More importantly though (to me), over the course of these years he has learned invaluable lessons in leadership, team work, management, negotiation and discipline among many other skills that will transcend into his everyday life no matter what he pursues.
Obviously, my son is very passionate about music and performing. At 10, I could never have imagined he would actually stick with it all these years. He wanted to play the electric guitar but instead I bought him an acoustic and told him when he learned how to play it, then I would get him an electric guitar. It sat there for almost year, nearly untouched, until his birthday was coming around and he convinced his dad to buy him the electric guitar (my son is very good at using rhetorical strategies to persuade people). That summer he taught himself how to play and began dreaming of becoming a rock star. Today, he he wants to be an engineer of some sorts, designing and constructing buildings, he wants to be an artisan, and live in Canada. However, the one thing that has remained a constant is that music is in him, a part of his being and will always be, and some how, some way he will always perform music and share that with an audience of people.
On that note, he would definitely and obviously prefer to work with other musicians who are on par with his passion and discipline. However, more often than not, it is actually not the musicians who cause problems within the functionality of his band, but rather it is none other than……. THEIR PARENTS!!!
Yup! You read that right! Their parents! Parents who refuse to be supportive or who do not take their child’s passion for music seriously. (I am very tempted at this point to make the generalized statement that if their child were playing a sport, then it would be a different story, but I’ll refrain from doing so.)
Granted, being a musician can be a very expensive hobby. Instruments can cost you anywhere from $150 – $3000 depending on what instrument they play and the quality/brand of the instrument, and then, as in the case of my son who plays with a band, there’s speakers, amps, mixing boards, etc. for performance. And then if they want to record some of their songs professionally, you’re looking at about $150 a song (and that’s cheap).
My son’s father and I have done everything possible to acquire as much equipment as we can at minimal costs (mostly used) in support of our son’s passion. He has the guitars, the drum set, and the performance equipment. As such, all band practices have always been held at my house, well, that was until recently when my jackass of a neighbor decided he would call the cops at 2pm on a Sunday afternoon to complain of the noise disturbance……oh and I should probably mention my other neighbor who hosed my son down over the fence with water while he was playing the drums! It seems to me that people prefer that teens be out committing crimes, doing drugs and getting into trouble rather than engaging in healthy, productive hobbies! In any case, we’ve assisted him in acquiring gigs, taught him skills in leadership and management, fed the band members and driven to them to their gigs, among many other things! Sometimes we bitch (like next week I have to drive him to a gig two hours away!) but for the most part we support him and his passion and we do everything possible to allow him the opportunity to continue pursuing his passion no matter where it leads him later on in the future.
Unfortunately, the majority of the other band members’ parents do not see things the way we do and as a result have on several occasions compromised myself and the band. For instance: it’s the night before the audition for a battle of the bands. The bassist who is 14 gets into an argument with his mother, so his mom decides that she’s going to ground him and he will not be allowed to attend the audition and perhaps not even perform at the Battle of the Bands if they are selected. She decides she will determine that on a later date.
WTF is that!!?? ARE. YOU. SERIOUS?? Where in anyone’s mind are they capable of constructing a punishment that consists of punishing others who had nothing to do with the crime except being guilty by association???? Perhaps she could give a crap about a silly little battle of the bands, but my son and the rest of the band members who have been practicing for a month and paid an entrance fee to be in this contest definitely give a shit!!!
Fortunately, my son, who is adaptive, works well under pressure, and never panics, swallowed his disappointment and frustration, picked up his phone and called on one of his friends, who is alsoa bassist and had played with him before, and asked him if he could stand in at the audition. Being a good friend, this guy agreed to do it and practiced the song all day in order to give a good performance for the audition.
On countless occasions I have had to pick up and/or drop off band members on the other side of town because their parents will not or “can not” give them a ride to practice or a gig. On most occasions the only parents who show up at the performances include us and one other band members single mom. But worst of all, I think, is how the parents’ attitudes translate onto their children’s attitudes. When parents don’t care, their kids don’t care. If you take your kid to school or practice late every single time, guess what? When they go off to college, they’re going to be late to class, and when they get a job, they’re going to be late to work. If you teach your kids that it’s ok not to commit to your interests/hobbies/work and produce at your best ability, then guess what? THEY WON’T. And if you teach them that it’s ok to quit, just because you feel like quitting, well guess what?? THEY’RE GOING TO QUIT!
So while I have had to deal with the effects of parents who just don’t care, my son has had to deal with musician’s who think it’s ok not to perform because they’re in a bad mood, or their girlfriend broke up with them, or they’re just interested in playing gigs and don’t want to commit completely, among many other issues leading me to conclude that at the end of the day, I think my son has it worse. However, his canny ability to handle these kinds of precarious situations and in the end still make things happen without a seemingly ounce of despair or concern, is one of his most admirable qualities and make me proud to be his mom.
P.S. You can find my son’s band on Facebook at “As Floods Rage” and become a fan! They’re next performance is at Rocketown in Pompano Beach on August 9th.
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