Last weekend I got to record music in our old music room at my parents house for the first time in twenty years. The last time I was recording music in that room it was on a 4-track tape player, the same machine which in one of my finer musical moments allowed me to record a translated version of Tesla’s “Love Song” for my high school Spanish class. And somehow I didn’t have that many friends in high school.
So up and coming rockers, the Cabin Kings, booked some session time with my brother at the engineering helm, and we got the basics of 10 songs or so recorded in two afternoon sessions. Listening to some of them now, I think we’ll need to re-record a ton, but this one has a few usable tracks I think: http://thecabinkings.com/022011/devil.mp3. It was nice to record with the piano I grew up with too… well, at least one of us grew up. But it’s definitely dawning on me that it’s a LOT of work to be in a band, to play shows, to record… and I’m seeing why people usually give that up for a while when they have kids.
The kids sort of want and need your attention too, it seems. Maybe I’m crazy but there’s still–after five years–the sort of out-of-body experience of being a dad, of you looking at yourself from afar as you change a diaper (you know, to get further away from the smell) or find yourself demanding that your child pick up the food they’ve thrown on the floor or sending them to their room. I mean, can we just so predictably become that person? I know these are just the stereotypical or prototypical moments of being a parent and there are countless others where you can be far goofier than any other parent has ever been and really bond with your kids on their level. That’s what comes easily to me. It’s the other part that feels like it’s just too generic to embrace.
Unfortunately that’s sort of the important stuff — getting your kid to swimming lessons and changed out of their wet suits afterwards. Getting your kids enrolled in school, signed up for daycare, vaccinated, washed, dressed warmly, fed, rested… when you really want to practice the piano or pick up the banjo for the first time in a week or open a book for the first time in a month. But no, you should really call those nice folks you met at the new year’s party so that your kids can have a play date. What? Call someone? Make a new friend? It’s hard to do that when it’s unclear if it’s the kids who need to be friends or the parents… or both? I mean, are you just calling me so your kid can play with mine? Because I thought we had something here!! I wanted to hear more about your lawn and your daycare arrangement!! And I thought that you thought my jokes about my commute were hilarious!
Let’s face it — we adults are under siege when we have kids clamoring about our feet, and there’s really no room for meaningful socialization in that situation. It’s just about survival. It’s about being a successful parent, whatever that means at the moment… like having your kid enjoy the indoor play gym that you paid $12 to access, or having your kid eat the food you got them for lunch, or having your kid learn something at the museum, and on and on.
So I guess you can fully adopt this persona as your own — the mission-oriented parent who’s 100% defined by his/her commitment to the kids. Or you can do the best you can to punctuate your parental duties with cynical. world-weary, increasingly less witty remarks (kids are known to sap wit, hence the frequent expression around kids, “I’m at my wits end!”), thus keeping up the pretense of your former self. But as my wife has pointed out, cynical comments amidst parenting become pretty tedious when there’s really no one listening to you except those similarly under siege.
I guess you just have to find the right ways to blend your former self and your new parenting self. The kids are finally showing some signs of being interested in music. Syd is getting into the Star Wars trilogy (the original one of course), which is something we can now both talk about for hours. Isaac is showing a knack for coming up with weird little punchline catchphrases, like adding “Bob” to the end of everything, “Hey, Bob!” “No way, Bob!” which means I could have some competition at long last in the humor department. **crickets** Is this thing on?
So “too big to fail” is the name of one of the new songs we recorded, but it works for this message too, I guess, as parenting is too big a responsibility and, honestly, too big a goal of mine, to fail at it. I mean, compared to playing half-decent rock ‘n’ roll music or writing a half decent blog, being a supportive and loving parent is what I really care about. Or so I’ve convinced myself, in the course of writing this message. Just have to remember this when the kids are screaming for more Dora and Diego episodes on TV or when they are smiling with my eggplant parmesan and spaghetti dinner in their mouth until it just falls out on their shirt, the chair and the floor. Real funny, young man!! Clean it up!!
Yours in a therapeutic blog,