>Sometimes You Realize They Already Left the Nest, Even When They Are Still Squatting There

>I was doing some cleaning and straightening in my office today and came across some papers I’d saved from the Lazerwolfs tour we did back in the summer of 2008. That was the one where our drummer flaked out (i.e. had to go to jail) at the last minute and we drafted Sid (my son, for those of you reading who are new to this blog) to play drums for us. He had just turned fifteen at the time. It wasn’t the longest tour — just a week out to Ohio and back — but it was hot and sweaty and, at times, awesome. The papers I found were these little drawings he did on our set lists, caricatures of the three of us. Looking at them I got a serious lump in my throat; I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like to look at them in two, five, ten years. Hell, just looking at this photo group from the late, great Lazerwolfs flickr page makes me verklempt. I’m realizing this weekend that that summer, which also included a trip to Seattle to see Iron Maiden, and that week we spent together on tour, was probably about the last time I was still cool in his eyes.

At that time he had just started playing drums in a metal band of his own, and had bailed on the family band we had been playing in (Tater Pig, which was a three-piece that also included my wife/Sid’s step-mom, Julia) together. I knew all along that that day would ultimately come, but it still kind of bummed me out when he outgrew us. But not that much. We had some good times, played a couple good shows, and he solidified his love for playing music. It was a great experience for all of us.

Sid and I have always been close, and we have maintained a great relationship. We have our issues from time to time, but nothing like the horror stories you hear about the relationships kids have had with their parents. Maybe it’s because I’ve always gotten along with my folks, I don’t know . . . we just haven’t ever really butted heads. He’s done things I wish he hadn’t, and made choices I’d preferred he hadn’t which have caused me to have to be The Dad, but, for the most part, it has been very smooth sailing. I don’t think I can over-emphasize how thankful I am for that.

As a child he was similar to me in the things that interested him. He got into comic books, action figures, all that stuff. It allowed me a second childhood of sorts in a lot of ways, sharing these things with him that had been such a large part of my youth. We got excited about the same things; I remember standing in line in the snow and bitter cold to get into the first showing on the day The Fellowship of the Ring opened. He used to have this toy Godzilla thing that would roar when you pressed a button that I used to use as his alarm clock; I’d hold it over his bed making it roar until he quit faking he was still asleep. When he saw the movie and Godzilla died at the end (the horrible remake that Matthew Broderick was in), he cried, much like I had bawled when I was little and King Kong died.

poor little fella has the chicken pox in this picture

As recently as just a couple years ago he still liked to spend a lot of time with me. We’d hit the movies that came out that seemed awesome, we’d have fairly regular “Dad & Boy” days where we’d go eat or something, just the two of us, and do whatever. As he’s become more independent, those events have gotten fewer and farther between. This isn’t really a lament for that, even though it represents a kind of heartache I know all parents experience, because it is to be expected. So I deal with it. We still have time together where we talk about things we share interests in; mostly music these days, but he goes on pretty incessantly about this or that video game, because he knows at some level I’m pretty interested, even if I don’t play.

As the end of his high school career approaches over the next 12 – 18 months, I worry. He is in love with music the same way I was at his age, with similar goals. Sometimes I wish I’d hidden all my CDs and videos and personal music history away from him so his passions would flow in other directions, because music, for all that I have enjoyed with it, has been brutal as well. That’s foolish of me, I know, because who am I to deny him access to whatever he thinks might be cool? And it may not have helped anyway. My parents certainly weren’t the ones to introduce me to KISS back when I was a kid and learned through their music that the world was a lot more awesome than what our dinky little home town was showing me! So I really can’t blame myself for that — it was probably inevitable.

I hope Sid pursues some higher education as well, even a two-year trade school, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to convince him the value of that. He is certain he doesn’t want to do anything like what I do for a living, which is equal parts gratifying and depressing to me. What father wants their child to look on how they earn their money and think it is something they absolutely want no part of? “I’d rather die than do what Dad does!” I can’t really blame him, though. If the role of the parent is to lead the way for their children by example, then in that respect I have failed in a lot of ways. I have totally sold out to The Man, and that literally keeps me up at night sometimes, because I so never wanted to allow myself to get in that position. I have totally compromised the dreams I had as a young man for how I wanted to make my living. So now, as a sore-limbed and cantankerous geezer of middle age, I’m fighting like hell to re-take that hill I surrendered as a man of 20-something.

I’ve been lucky, though. I’ve blundered into a better place in life than I probably deserve, given my mistakes, the choices I’ve made and the things I didn’t do. I fear that he may not get as lucky as I did. It’s a much different world he is about to enter than the one I did at his age. That keeps me up at night sometimes too.

I’m thinking about all this melodramatic bullshit tonight because of a conversation we had at dinner the other night. Julia and I had planned to go out to dinner, and Sid, since he couldn’t find a friend to do anything with at that time, decided to go with us. The bulk of our dinner conversation revolved around one of the bands Sid is in, and how they have been invited to this festival in New Mexico in May, and what it will take for them to go. Allowing that to happen is probably a blog post in and of itself.

One of the guys in the band is thinking about going to school in LA in a year. Sid and his friend Dustin are talking about going there too, to “keep the band together.” We talked about the LA scene, what it’s like, etc. In the back of mind I was wanting to urge him to think about the simple notion of giving up opportunities in his own life, potentially, to follow some other guy around who is devoting energy to school rather than the band. I’m not anti-school, I just want Sid to think about that. Why can’t he do both too? It’s not like he can even consistently play clubs until he’s 21 anyway. But that’s beside the point. We were mainly just talking about LA and what it’s like. Sid still listens to Julia and me, thankfully, to a degree. I’ve maybe played more shows over the years than she has, just because I’ve been doing it longer, but when it comes to being on the road and playing the bigger cities, she has done more. So he at least listens to what we have to say, even as I can see the wheels turning.

It was time to go. We stopped and waited while Julia visited the restroom. Sid and I were standing in the lobby, and I was talking about LA. I said, “Yeah, people say LA sucks, and it probably does, but I’ve enjoyed myself every time I’ve been there. We should visit there some time here so you can check it out.”

“What do you mean?” he said.

“I don’t know. Maybe take a road trip down there or something so you can see it. It would be fun.”

“Yeah,” he said. “Except I don’t want to go with you. I want to go with my band.”

I nodded, Julia rejoined us, and we all walked out of there. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to crawl off somewhere and sulk myself into oblivion. Oh, the poor, spurned parent! It’s silly, I know, but it was definitely one of those moments. We’ve got a road to go yet together, Sid and me, and Julia too, but in so many ways he’s already gone. People always say the time passes too quick with kids, and damn if they aren’t right.

6 thoughts on “>Sometimes You Realize They Already Left the Nest, Even When They Are Still Squatting There”

  1. >Lots of things to comment on here, but I'll restrict myself to three. 1) Only good parents put this much thought into the nuances of parenting, parenting mistakes, and the role of guidance. He's lucky to have you. 2) As to steering paths, I'm not sure much of this isn't hard wired into our children and ourselves. 3) Yeah, he wants to go to LA with his band, and at some point probably will, but maybe you can bring him with you to LCC in March and you guys can do a little exploring together, kind of like reconnaissance. Loved those pictures.

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