The band, Elwood, the band!
– Jake Blues, the Blues Brothers
Children are not little adults, but as they become adults, they’ll find their own interests and tastes. If my job is to support them – whether financially, logistically, emotionally and morally – then that means that I’m going to become familiar with topics and activities with which I’m familiar. We fathers will be forced outside of our comfort zones as fathers who played baseball purchase The Idiot’s Guide to Soccer and hunters become conversant with music and theatre. In my own case, Middle’s sudden entry into the world of garage bands means that I’m so far out of my own zone that I need a compass and Sherpa guide to find my way back. What are some things that I’ve had to learn in this situation?
The first thing that I’ve had to realize is that a garage band involves not only the household, it involves the entire neighborhood. Even with the garage door down, amps and speakers are loud enough that the sound is only muted as it rolls down the street. Even at the outset, when we imposed curfews on practice times to spare neighbors with small children, the comments were such that we moved the band into the basement. I was surprised that the boys actually listened as the situation developed and while the location is less than perfect for them, they’re just happy to have a regular place to practice.
What can be done to minimize the damage to the ears of practicing in an enclosed area? Early rock-and-rollers are notoriously deaf and it’s our desire to see that this doesn’t happen here, so finding earplugs are a necessity; stressing that they be worn – which Middle hasn’t opposed thankfully – is also incumbent. Fortunately, I haven’t had to threaten to interrupt practice to perform ear inspections to assure that they’re being worn.
What is the language being used? Lyrics can be famously profane and it’s been made clear from one infraction that cursing won’t be allowed. I’m fortunate in that their preference is punk and not "screamo", in which case I couldn’t tell the difference between the Catholic liturgy and a string of Howard Stern’s rants; to date, there’s only been one instance of having to say something for inappropriate language.
How are the logistics being handled, especially in terms of moving equipment? None of these kids have licenses and if there are gigs – and there are two already lined up – then the odds are that one or more of the fathers are going to add roadie to our job responsibilities. Even if the equipment isn’t being moved, then how are kids getting home and are any of them staying for dinner? Teens are notoriously horrendous planners and it’s reached the point that if I know that there’s going to be a practice, then I’m simply cooking for the band as well as the family. These are the days that work best for crockpot meals.
When the kids "plan" these sessions, are they on days when there’s a certifiable adult in the household? We’ve been adamant that either my wife or I be present and when Middle protested vigorously, quoting the teen battle cry of what could go wrong? I responded that with the presence of several teenage boys, I could return home to find a smoking crater where our house used to be.
These are only the first of the lessons that will arise from this new endeavor. As one father commented to me last weekend, wait until they start bickering.