Over the weekend, my family went to see some live music in an outdoor venue, and no one had a better time than my nearly 3-year-old daughter. Every time one song stopped, she’d plead “‘Nother song, Mama? ‘Nother song, mama!” as if I had a Bat Phone directly to the band to make an urgent request on her behalf.
It was cute and all, but as I scanned the crowd, unavoidably inhaling the remnants of others’ cigarette (people still smoke cigarettes, by the way. Really?) and marijuana smoke, it seemed as if the majority in attendance were kids in their late teens and early- to mid-20s, and it dawned on me that the general innocence of my daughter and specifically her music-listening experience will eventually come to an end. And probably much sooner than I’ll like.
At the moment, one of her best and worst attributes is belting out show tunes. Best because who doesn’t love a good Broadway medley, and worst because surely there’s someone who doesn’t, and my daughter sings at a volume that guarantees no one in a 3-mile radius could possibly miss her arias.
I won’t lie and say it’s not nice to control what music she has access to, and if the least desirable selection on her current iPod playlist are the cries of injustice by a bunch of Depression-era urban orphans, then I’d count us in the lucky column. However, it’s still quite unclear at what point she’ll realize there’s more in iTunes than Disney princess-theme songs and the soundtracks to Julie Andrews’ movies, and to bouncing to the rhythm on her parents’ laps atop a freshly washed Guatemalan blanket during a (mostly) family friendly music festival, and I’m not really looking forward to it.
I felt like, well, a mom as I looked at the girls in short skirts and dresses, low-cut, tight tops and dirty feet making their way through the crowd clutching cans of beer and few inhibitions. Not that they were doing anything wrong (at least in plain sight), but as I imagined my daughter as one of those girls some day, I finally really understood — to my core — what made my parents stay awake at night when I went out to see live music when I was younger.
I used to go see relatively gentle bands like the Grateful Dead and Blues Traveler, even though I just know my parents imagined the acts were actually much more hard core, probably like Black Sabbath and Slayer. But the reality is that from the perspective of the people who gave you life, they can all seem equally bad and corrupting, no matter if they’re singing about Satan or Saint Stephen.
That my daughter loves music of all varieties fills my heart with gladness. After all, a singing child has to be a happy child, right? It just seems that people with music in their DNA often tend to seek their independence at an earlier and faster rate as a matter of course. I guess we raise our kids with the hope that they will become their own people capable of operating on free will, but it’s not something I necessarily want to think about when I’m still in the throes of enjoying a toddler who so thoroughly revels in a nightly cuddle to the dulcet sounds of Judy Garland.
And now, with daughter No. 2 on the way, it seems like it’s inevitable that at least one of my girls will give me the headaches that I gave my parents (or at least my parents can only hope) on the nights they reluctantly trusted me to go out with my friends to see live music.
Of course the funny thing is that as much as I reveled in the freedom of spending time with my friends while relishing in the jam-band experience, I usually spent most of my time at concerts worrying about finding my car or catching the right train after the show and getting home in time so as to not disturb my family. Looking back, I wish I had actually relaxed a bit more — kind of the like the girls who I spied over the weekend — and enjoyed what my parents were sacrificing their own sanity and better judgment to let me do.
I know what my parents expected of me and how they would have been (and still would be) surprised at how closely I followed what I knew would be their wishes of and for me, despite the image I projected. I only hope my kids will manage to follow a similar path of exploring a passion for music while at the same time keeping their shirts buttoned, literally and figuratively, when they’re feeling too old to bounce to the music on my lap anymore.
If not, I imagine I’ll do my best to make sure they only ever have access to tickets to see Barney and Friends live in concert. You’d be surprised at how much that fat purple dinosaur can really rock out.
More at MeredithCarroll.com.