Help! My kids hate punk rock!!

Convulsions circa 1987

(That’s me on the far left)

Help! My kids hate punk rock…

To be fair, this statement could apply to anything from my youth that my kids blatantly refuse to appreciate.

A little background: When I was in late high school, say 16-years-old (1985-6), I discovered punk rock.

I had been an avid music listener since I was young. My father had played in rock and R&B bands (think James Brown, not Whitney Houston) in the 60s and early 70s, so music had always been in my life.

When I was in my mid-teens, I started playing guitar, abandoned it, and then went back to it again. I fell in love with hard rock music, fashionable at the time, because it was generally guitar-based, and that was what I was all about.

After a brief stint in a metal cover band with some friends, I started to branch out, playing with other people from my high school who turned me on to bands I had heard of, but never heard. While punk rock wasn’t new to the world, it was a brave new sound to me, and I embraced its aggression, speed, and volume. Plus it was really easy to play and write, and you could have messed up hair and clothes.

So it became a part of my aesthetic, and would stay with me in one form or other my whole life. Sure, as I got older I eschewed the hair or the clothes a bit, depending on my mood at the time, but the idea of doing what you really wanted to do, even if that wasn’t necessarily the safe route, and you had to create it all yourself to be who you wanted to be, stayed with me. Maybe that’s born of Western middle-class entitlement, but I wouldn’t have joined Sloan, gone on tour, and be who I am today without punk rock.

Now, given that a form of music would have such a positive impact on my life, you would think that I might want to show my kids that. They might be curious as to why or how I came to be who I am. Maybe there is something that would attract them, a message or an energy in the music that would exhilarate them. Maybe they would want to pick up a guitar and start their own punk rock band. So I decided to sit them down and play them some songs that were important to me, and catalogue their reactions.

I thought I’d start with Washington D.C.’s seminal hardcore band Minor Threat. Touting a straight-edge aesthetic (no booze, no drugs, no casual sex), I figured they were the most kid-appropriate band to play.

“Out of Step”

The fact that singer Ian MacKaye uses the word fuck twice in the first 10 seconds (admittedly I forgot about that) didn’t go unnoticed.

Marshall (10): “Weird. Really loud, and heavy metal music with people yelling.”

Me: “But it’s punk rock music.”

Marshall: “Ok, but it sounds like those heavy metal bands.” Which heavy metal bands he was referring to I don’t know, but…

Ivy (7): “Yeah, it sounds like heavy metal.”

Me: “But it’s not heavy metal, it’s punk rock.”

Ivy: “Yeah, but heavy metal.”

Ok. Moving on, I decided to go with more “classic” punk, The Ramones. I had a bit of an issue with The Ramones when I was a teenager. Since they were from mid-’70s New York, and lumped in with other “punks” like Blondie and Talking Heads (neither being remotely punk), I often ignored them. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I fully grasped their importance.

“Blitzkrieg Bop”

Marshall: “Sounds really cheerful, until they start singing.”

Ivy: “I think that it was better than the other one. But it’s still really loud.”

Me: “And you don’t like the loud?”

Ivy (ignoring me): “But it’s good music, but it’s really like…BOOM!!” She then erupts into laughter claiming that the Taylor Swift video on the muted TV goes perfectly with “Blitzkrieg Bop.” I don’t agree, but keep it to myself.

The Clash were next, but only because there was a Clash tape, London Calling, in my son’s room when he was a baby, and I used to play it when trying to get him to nap. Such is my opinion of The Clash: music so boring, kids might nap to it. Not a fan, but they might like it…

“London Calling”

Marshall: “It doesn’t sound like punk rock, it sounds like the radio music you and Laurel (step-mom) always try to listen to.”

Me: “You mean before you guys whine so much we eventually put on the station you want?”

Marshall: “Yeah. Like that.”

I was going to play a Sex Pistols song, but the name of the band itself elicited such a chorus of snickers and elbowing back and forth that I gave up before I even cued a song up. Keep in mind, these are two kids who can’t keep a straight face when I tell them I’m going to Regina. This also meant that Circle Jerks, Millions of Dead Cops, Dead Kennedys, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Dayglo Abortions, Suicidal Tendencies, and our neighbours Fucked Up were off the (turn) table as well.

Eventually I played them a bunch of hardcore punk songs that Sloan has released, some original, some covers, which they were more into, although mainly because they could have a good laugh at their dear old dad screaming his head off at someone other than themselves.

Ivy (laughing hysterically): “It sounds like Daddy’s angry!” Not sure why me being angry is something to laugh so hard at, although it would explain why I have very little control over anything that goes on in my own home.

Finally, because of the name of my blog, I played them a tune by the Rastafarian punk legends Bad Brains. Did not go over well.

“I Against I”

Ivy: “It sounds like heavy metal.”

Head firmly in my hands, I almost start weeping in frustration. Of course, she’s kind of right; there is a fine line at times between metal and punk, as there can be between many types of music. Genres blend, and that’s how music moves forward, for better or worse. I’m not sure if this means she has a better grasp on different styles of music than I thought, or a better grasp on how to drive me crazy.

What am I to glean from this experiment? Am I doomed to be the uncool dad, despite the fact that I’m pretty much the coolest dad there could be? Is it natural for kids to even think their parents are cool? Perhaps it’s dangerous. How do we move forward as a species unless we rebel against what came before us? Actually, that sounds like a lyric I would have written in one of my punk bands in 1987.

“We’re pregnant!” No, she’s pregnant.

We're Pregnant!

“We’re pregnant!”

All too often I hear couples that are expecting a baby announce, or let slip in conversation, that they are, in fact, expecting a baby. “We’re pregnant,” they say, with a little squeeze or a hug, and smile as they look into each others’ eyes for a brief second, sharing a bond that only they can know, while a cashier waits a beat before asking if they collect Air Miles, and want a plastic bag for the Anusol, Doritos, and pickled onions they dashed out to the pharmacy at midnight to buy.

Great news. Couldn’t be happier. But you don’t need a bag for three things, and I too am at said pharmacy, waiting in line, so hurry up and get going. It’s late, and my own pregnant wife is also craving Doritos.

There are differences between a couple having a baby, and a couple being pregnant. While both soon-to-be parents are changing, those changes are not the same.

The main difference is that, while I may be indulging in a few more Doritos and pickled onions than I usually would, and have noticed a slight increase in my midriff, it is nothing compared to that of my wife. This is in large part because I don’t have an actual human being growing inside me.

You see, I am not also pregnant. I do have things growing in my stomach: excitement, anxiety, flora, and maybe the odd parasite. No kids, though. No fetus, no placenta.

Yet people keep saying it: “It might be a little soon, but…we’re pregnant!” Cue screams and high-fives all around.

Maybe the idea is that there is a sharing of both the good and the bad during this time. “We’re pregnant, we’re going through this together.” It’s true that we will be having a baby together (the good), but let’s face it, the majority of the “having” involves extraction through extreme means (the bad), and will not physically effect me beyond a severely squeezed hand (also bad). My vagina will not be stretched to its limits (good), because I don’t have one.

It could be argued that this is all just semantics. Having a child is a life-long experience for both parents. The fact that the actual, physical act of giving birth is down to one of us is really just a sliver of time in our lives. But what a sliver.

And it’s not just the whole birth/stretching of private parts/potential complications and surgeries etc. that set mother apart from father. There is a bond that, whether fathers want to admit it or not, is always there between a child and their mother. Sure, I have seen this bond blossom into an explosive cocktail of anger and resentment, but it’s there nonetheless.

This isn’t to suggest that fathers don’t have their own bond with their children, because they certainly do. It’s just that, due to the pre-existing bond between mother and child, which is more symbiotic, fathers are usually able to engage the “go ask your mother” protocol, as clearly that bond is traditionally seen as taking precedent. And, of course, at some point father and child become one in the same; it’s her sand box, we’re all just playing in it, kicking sand around and making a mess that we’ll have to clean up later. Except, of course, we won’t clean it up “properly,” and she’ll just have to do it again anyway.

But I digress.

So, in closing: while I’m not trying to preach to anyone, think twice before announcing that the two of you are pregnant. The two of you are having a child together, for sure, but only one of you can bend over and pick things up.

 

Note: While this post is about expectant parents in a relationship, I am not suggesting that only people in that situation will experience the joys and frustrations of having and raising children. People from all backgrounds, orientations, and status can make great parents, and may find some truths in here as well.

Hey Internet, thanks for telling me how to raise my kids, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got it covered

FirePlay1

I get the irony of having a parenting blog, and then complaining about other blogs telling me how to be a parent. To be clear, I don’t intend this blog to be a how-to guide for doing anything, but more my take on things, based on my own experiences and opinions. Hopefully you will see some of your own life in here, and maybe things I’ve dealt with might help you in the future. For instance, both my kids are left-handed. I am not. So, there are situations where that difference has come up (buying a left-handed vs. right-handed guitar, or should lefties be treated as “normal”), and I will write about that.

I hate Facebook. I am on Facebook, but I do not like it. It’s not that I don’t value social media, and the interaction between people that it encourages. I hate how it sometimes turns some of my friends into blithering idiots. This is strong wording, I know, and I don’t even really mean it, but it got your attention, so… If you’re on the ‘Book, you know that, unlike Twitter (which I like better, and am more active on), people seem to use it as a platform to pontificate about some subject or other in a way that they would never do if they were engaging with you face to face.

Twitter has a limit to how much you can say in one post (tweet). Sure, you can link to longer pieces, and you can use services like TwitLonger that get around the 140 character restrictions, but for the most part, brevity is encouraged, and makes for a more to-the-point experience. Facebook, on the other hand, is endless. And for every pic of someone’s unimpressive dog or random leaf they just had to share, there’s a diatribe about what’s wrong with whatever, and here’s why, and “it wasn’t that way when we were kids,” and blah blah blah.

When it’s someone I know commenting on a popular or timely article, that’s one thing, but when it’s a friend asking, “What the f**k is a – insert new, hugely popular phenomenon that is meant to appeal to people much younger than said friend, and they know this, and also know full well what it is, but pose the question to seem just slightly out of the loop because they have more important things to think about, and want to make sure you know it -?” For instance: “What the f**k is a Skrillex?” I cringe, and quickly move on and try not to read any of the comments, most of which are from yet other friends who quickly pounce on modern culture, denigrating anything that they weren’t in on the ground floor for, and inevitably moan on about the Star Wars prequels and the inferior quality of mp3s.

So, what does this have to do with parenting? Since a good chunk of my friends are parents, I see lots of links to click-bait articles, quizzes, and lists about parenting that they all too often fall for, click on, and comment. And then I’m sucked in too. Such-and-such commented on a comment? Well, I have to see that original comment, and what they commented about it. After all, I may or may not agree with them or the comment they are commenting on. But wait, while I may or may not agree with my friend, all these other commenters are idiots! And I certainly don’t agree with this article, nor the random stranger who wrote it. Who are they to write about how they think things should be? They’re just some faceless blogger who I am now taking so seriously that I too may comment, and will most certainly address on my own blog!

Of course, it’s only made all the more attractive/infuriating if it’s being suggested that there is an appropriate way to raise my kids, and I am not adhering to it. Which is almost always. I’m not talking about common sense things like: “Don’t let your kids lick aloe vera off of their burned fingers.” Or: “Don’t let your kids put matches out with their fingers.” I mean more broader topics, like a very popular meme from earlier this year stating:

respect

Of course this is complete bulls**t. I know, because my parents spanked me, and while it’s true that I don’t actively go around disrespecting others, I don’t think being spanked taught me anything more than it hurts. But I had many people in my feed, people who I grew up with, some who have kids, and even some who don’t, give this meme the old “like” thumbs up. Really?! You hit your kids? In 2014? And you’re proudly, even smugly, advertising this to your friends, friends of friends, and I’m assuming in-laws and business associates?

My point is that these opinions are far reaching, can reflect back on you, and are generally not your idea in the first place. Sure, you may agree with the notion that kids shouldn’t get an award for simply showing up to a track meet or some other contest, but you didn’t write about it, you just “liked” it. And how much thought did you put into it? Teenagers don’t necessarily deserve trophies for showing up to a tournament, but maybe a 7-year-old would like a little ribbon for participating in their school’s track meet. Is that ribbon going to have a lasting impact on their lives? Will they expect to be pre-approved for a mortgage because one time years before they got a ribbon for something, and now everything should be handed to them for the rest of their lives? No. Don’t be such a friggin’ Grinch, she’s 7.

Think about the power that a successful meme or blog post can have. The ripples that expand across the Internet, reaching past your feed, your world, and out into the zeitgeist can drive traffic back to that blog. The more views a blog has the more attention it gets, and (theoretically) the more successful it is. The more successful, the more money it can generate. What posts get the most attention? The ones that convey the most outrageous ideas. Ergo: Hit your kids!

That the blogger actually believes what they are writing is almost inconsequential. The fact that they chucked it out there, and you caught and ran with it, with all your friends and followers running right behind you, is the goal, for the most part. It’s common sense. Sure, you’ll have people who are trying to be helpful, I suppose, but more often than not, they are “advising” because, let’s face it, they want you to know they “get it” a little bit more than you do. Even if “getting it” means knowing how to pull your strings. Plus, they know how to use WordPress.

A recent perusal of Facebook over the last few days yielded these gems:

Wearethatfamily.com claims that goodie bags given out at the end of Birthday parties are a no-no: “We take our kids to parties so they can give a gift, but they take a small one home so they won’t feel bad? It’s not their birthday. This concept of spoiling kids is temporary fun. It’s okay for them not to be the center of attention.”

While I agree that kids don’t always need to be the centre of attention, I would say that a goodie bag isn’t so much given so guests don’t feel bad, I think it’s more of a gesture of thanks for coming, and bringing a present. There’s nothing wrong with showing a little gratitude, which is something we can teach our kids by having them give out little gift bags at the end of their Birthday party.

Wearethatfamily.com also say that families “simply can’t center our lives around our children when we are centering our lives around Christ.”

So, no goodie bags, and their children shouldn’t be as important as a carpenter turned magician who lived over 2000 years ago? I’m sure their kids feel the same way about the importance of their parents vs. Santa.

Huffingtonpost.com managed to cobble together a list of 11 Things Only Parents of Boys Will Understand.

For the examples in the list, think “girls don’t” in place of “boys do”: Girls don’t give the best hugs. Girls don’t think farts are funny. Girls aren’t physical. Girls don’t love unconditionally. What a load of sexist bulls**t. I understand that this is A. written by a person who doesn’t have a daughter, and B. on huffingtonpost.com, so it’s not to be taken seriously. Still, almost everything on this list can be applied to either sex. I don’t want to get too far into double standards, and I know this is a bit of fun, but as a parent of a girl, with another one on the way, the generalizing and attempt at being both cute and provocative negate the whole thing, rendering it an exercise in simply filling in space.

Yet I did click…

Dad Brains: From the Brains of a Dad

BrainsofaDad1

“I’m pregnant!”

I am not an early riser. So, hearing this bit of info a few months ago at 6 am was met with equal parts surprise and confusion.

“Oh. Are you indeed?” Gulp.

To be fair, it wasn’t actually a complete surprise. We had been “trying,” except, to my recollection, we had only tried once. But there it was, a line on a stick, and a whole new chapter in my life.

A little back story here: I am a professional musician, having played guitar, sung, written, and produced music for Canadian power-pop icons (not my words) Sloan since 1991. I have also written music blogs, entertainment news, opinion pieces, and parenting advice. I have two children, a 10-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter, from a previous marriage, and have just found out recently that I am having a third child, a girl. Oh yeah, I’m 45.

My wife is 15 years younger than me, and very good with kids. In fact, when I first met her 6 or 7 years ago (whose counting…well aside from her, of course), she was very keen to talk about her young nieces. After we moved in together, and my kids started spending more and more time with her, she quickly eased into their lives, and now we have a great blended family, where they refer to her as their step-mother, and she has become an active part in every aspect of their lives.

We get along great with their mother, and with 50/50 custody, the kids spend ½ the week (Monday, Tuesday, Friday nights, and Saturday afternoons) with us, and the rest (Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday nights, and all day Sunday) with her. It can be complicated at times, but everyone has worked hard to make things happy and healthy for the children.

Now the balance is going to change a bit, as the new baby won’t be moving back and forth between the two homes. It will be something new for all of us, and a transition that we will have to navigate carefully so that everyone feels included and happy.

This is all well and good, but, as I said, I just turned 45. Having a baby at this point in my life, with two kids already milling about, wasn’t necessarily unexpected, but there is a certain degree of the unknown that can keep you up at night, staring into the darkness, calculating a decade or so more of daycare costs, high-chairs, strollers, car seats, clothes, food, water, and…air – because by the time this one hits 10, I’m sure we’ll be paying for that too. Thanks a lot Obama.

Nevertheless, life keeps moving forward, one day at a time. I had the same fears before my son was born, and before my daughter, and so far I haven’t had to sell even one of them. Plus, pretty soon I can send my son out to sell encyclopedias, or newspapers, or oranges, or whatever. I was 15 when I got my first job, and since they grow up so much faster these days, my math seems on point.

So, I have decided to chronicle my life as a new/old dad. Since I have written extensively about most other aspects of the entertainment world, and make rock music for a living, I’ll throw a bunch of stuff about all of that in there as well. Please enjoy, and comment when you feel like it.

PP