Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Marching Orders

You never quite know where life is going to lead us, but the one role in life I never thought I would have is Band Parent. When I started my family, I knew I would be dragged into all sorts of activities. I believe in being involved with my son’s activities. Heck, I spent four years as a Cub Scout Assistant Den Leader, which is the lowest rank you can have in Scouting and still get to wear the spiffy uniform. I just never thought I would be involved in a marching band.

In high school I knew lots of band geeks and even dated a few musicians. I, however, have no musical talent whatsoever. I get banned from humming at work. The threat of karaoke night draws laughs and veiled threats from my family.

I love music. I appreciate musical talent. I just have none of my own, so my son didn’t get any from me. My wife is the only Asian I know that has never been forced to learn an instrument, so any latent ability in her is undiscovered. Musical talent was the last thing we expected to find in any mixture of our collective DNA.

We thought elementary school band would be a good way to round out our son’s scholastic experience. For those unfamiliar with the genre, elementary school bands sound like kids throwing rocks at very sick cats that have been tied up in large burlap bags. They usually sound better tuning their instruments than actually playing them. Still we went to the concerts and even have a few performances on videotape just in case any of the other kids ever become famous pop stars and E! needs embarrassing footage for a Behind The Music rip-off.

In middle school we started paying for weekly private lessons with a teacher that unbeknownst to us had a really good jazz band on the side and had former students go on to become professional recording artists. We feel like we’re paying Lance Armstrong to teach our kid to ride a tricycle.

Two years ago we showed up for parent night for the high school band and foolishly volunteered to help out moving equipment. Now we chaperone trips, put plumes in hats, sell all sorts of crap, and generally write off every weekend between August and November. Here is what the past few days have entailed:

Thursday: Pick him up from the twice weekly 6 to 9 band practice.

Friday: Attend football game. Push percussion equipment on and off the field at half time. Go to Bennigans after the game because they donate 15% of our sales to the band.

Saturday: Take him to another special practice and then load all the equipment into a rental truck.

Sunday: Wake up at 5:30 am so we can get him down to the school for a 2-1/2 hour bus ride to a competition. We carpool with another band parent to the competition so I can drive the lawn tractor that tows the percussion equipment on and off the field. We return home after 8 pm that night.

Monday: Band Booster meeting: Time to start planning the Spring trip to Orlando.

Tuesday: Set up the school cafeteria for the end of the season pot-luck dinner. Ate lukewarm lasagna and KFC chicken while listening to the students give each other awards like Loudest Belcher and Biggest Wedgie.

Now that marching band season is over, my son is rehearsing every night this week as part of the band for a community theater musical. He is also thinking of joining the afterschool jazz band and the indoor drumline. I don’t know what those entail, but I’m sure it affects my Shell card.

I love that he is involved in something that is only about the fourth dorkiest thing you can do in high school, but I just try to keep some ironic detachment about my own complicity in all this.

I know I am getting no sympathy from the Bloggin’ Moms (and Dads) out there with three kids who each have four activities. One kid with one activity would be their idea of heaven, but a golf shirt with a school logo on the front and “Pit Crew” stitched on the sleeve is definitely not anything I ever imagined in my wardrobe.

So go ahead and top this and tell me what part of your life is a completely random non-sequitor for where you thought you would be?

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Sandy said...

I am laughing "With" you not at you. ;) Michele sent me, by the way.

I played violin in grade school through HS. you're right. those early days are a like a strangled cat

Anonymous said...

What's going on in my life that I never really expected? Probably my job as a software developer... but I'm trying to rectify that. :)

I was in middle school band (and one year of HS as well), so this post brings back memories. Sounds like the parents (and the school) actually care enough about the band to make it a worthwhile endeavor, unlike my school.

Michele says hello!

Mooselet said...

As a "Bloggin' Mom" who has 3 kids and who feels more like a chauffeur than a parent, I have a lot of sympathy for you. You don't just drop and run as so many do - you help, you volunteer. So you have no-one to blame but yourself, of course! Doesn't that suck? I speak from experience.

I don't think I can top you, as I have too many kids to commit to just one as completely as you. But I never thought I'd be the mother of such girly-girls, and then be proud of it.

There, that's fairly random...

Your Mother said...

Oh, that is funny! Luckily, mine aren't old enough yet and 14 isn't interested in anything remotly normal. So, my sympathies go out to you know. However, I reserve my right to change that statement in a few years!

PS - I don't think you over reacted. Too bad you didn't keep the chain, you could leash him to you and you'd never lose each other at functions. Just a thought.

Olyal said...

That is dedication!!! I don't have any kids yet (thank goodness)... but i have sworn that when i do extra curricular activities and friends will not be encouraged so that I don't have to spend my weekends schlepping them everywhere. :o)
Lucky you dont have several kids participating in different activities. Then what would you do?

Aginoth said...

loved teh comment about the elematary school band lol

Michelle sent me.

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, you're going to miss all that craziness someday. Take some time to look around and enjoy the view while you have it. All too soon you'll be able to pass the responsibility on to someone else and then you'll complain about how they're doing it all wrong.

An aside: You know, working in a school is kind of like being in a time machine. So many of the people around you stay the same age but you just keep getting older. You become the Picture of Dorian Gray.

yellojkt said...

I will miss the craziness which is why I do volunteer so much. I won't ever get another chance. I'm gonna do this right the first time so I don't need to get a trophy wife to actually raise kids the second time around.

And I think schools are reverse time machines. When I was in high school, we were much older than the ones there now.

Juggling Mother said...

having kids threw all attempts to plan my life out of the window. I have no idea where I'm going one day to the next now, never mind the actual future!

Here from Michelles

Anonymous said...

For me it was soccer, wrestling, and theatre. They keep us busy! Hi from michele's and loose leaf.

pamD said...

Seems like there's too much reliance on parents these days to make things perfect; I'm surprised kids grow up at all. I don't have any kids yet, but I don't know how I'm gonna do it. We did just fine in our marching band with a couple of sets of bells rolled out -- none of this tractor stuff. The competition stuff is out of control.

Anonymous said...

Very funny post! I have just one kid who is six ("and three-quarters, Mama!") and he is resolutely a nonjoiner. It will be interesting to see how this changes as he gets older.

Michele sent me today.

Holly said...

Yikes... is this what I have to look forward to?

kenju said...

I never thought I'd still be gainfully employed at my age, so I guess that's my non-sequitor.

Michele sent me - I first skipped you - but came back to make good on it!

craziequeen said...

[muses] sometimes I'm so glad I don't have kids :-)

Here from Michele's :-)


Twisted Cinderella said...

There are so many areas of my life that didn't turn out the way I expected them too. But I would say on the whole, I like the surprises.

MaR said...

Enjoyed reading your post. Life is full of unexpectancies! Remember those school years and activities do not last forever (thank goodness!), here is a high school senior's mom, sort of getting nostalgic - via Michele's this time.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

I don't know that I could say about where I would be or not, in a comment, but, I think it's great that your son is part of the band and thinking about the jazz band, too...who knows what that might lead to for him..for you? Well, you could become a 'roadie' if your son actually makes this a career! (lol) I'm here from Michele, today..glad I stopped by!

kenju said...

Hi, again, Michele sent me back this morning. You never know, you might be spawning the next recording artist, or at the least, a good musician. That is a great thing to shoot for, and I really wish I had kept up with my piano lessons.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I really enjoyed that post. I'm just glad I'm not a parent!

Michele sent me this way.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

My thought is that at least its music, rather than a sport. No one gets hurt playing in the band. Plus if he continues in the band in college etc, it's not so dorky anymore. :)

Here via Michele's.

yellojkt said...

I'm kinda with you plum, I would have let him keep the chain, but I had to express parental solidarity.

The lawn tractor actually saves us from hand pulling 4 timpanis, a marimba, a xylophone, and giant drum on the field. What these have to do with a MARCHING band, I have no idea. That's creative decisions I have no control over. I have seen bands with a four cart pit. Ours is only two and about average in size.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you got skipped on the Michele-go-round, so I'm filling in!

Thanks for visiting me.

Looks like you know what I'm talking about with the boy/musical noise thing. Great post!

Anonymous said...

I'm a drama mom. Theatre 'season' lasts from August to June. Then there's Drama Camp to run in the summer.

I guess the drama kids are higher on the dork scale than the band kids. I think it goes like this:

1. Debate club
2. Chorus
3. Drama geeks
4. Band

Anonymous said...

My life took a sharp turn at about age 22 and has never really recovered. Growing up, I was nerdy, studious, never "popular" and not particularly attractive. That carried through college. I planned to live my life as a spinster schoolteacher. It really fit. Then I moved to Key West and suddenly I was the belle of the ball--women were in relatively short supply and the atmosphere is so sensual and hedonistic there--I fell in lust and then I fell in love and I got involved with the arts and with politics and my teaching career never got off the ground. So instead of a steady life, year after year the same routine, saving money, traveling in the summer, a nice peaceful existence--instead of that, I lived for 15 years a really bohemian lifestyle, just making it up as we went along. Then the past 12 years when our daughter was in school, we settled down a little bit, but that schoolteacher life, it never happened. I'm still kind of surprised at that.