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Posts Tagged ‘kids’

My oldest son’s first concert technically was 13 years ago before he was born.  My wife was about eight months pregnant when we went to a Green Day show in Washington, D.C.  The waves of fast-paced punk music reverberated off my wife’s belly, creating a mosh pit effect in the womb.  For thirteen years I have waited for the opportunity to re-introduce my son to the mosh pit, a place I have loved since I began my lifelong obsession with underground music.

I have an ulterior motive in pro-actively shaping my children’s taste in music; I did not want to be condemned to listen to kid’s music in the car on the way to/from soccer practice, etc.  I started several years ago by introducing them to funny songs they could relate to, such as the Beastie Boys’ “Fight for your Right to Party” which is about not wanting to go to school and not wanting to get a haircut.  I also got them into the Dead Milkmen, who sing about big lizards in their backyard.  Most recently, we stumbled on a genre called “Laptop rap” which features songs about Star Wars, video games, and ninjas.  So when I noticed that two such rappers — MC Chris and MC Lars — were coming to a club about an hour and a half away from our house, I jumped online and bought three tickets.   It was an all-ages show. I was in luck.

My children had already forged a connection to Chris and Lars.  Chris’s song Hoodie Ninja was played over the speaker system at my nine-year-old son’s swim meets last summer after one of the coaches overheard my son nicknamed his relay team “The Hoodie Ninjas.”  Lars has a super-catchy rap version of Edgar Allan Poe’s 150-year-old poem The Raven that my kids now know all the words to.  My plan to get them listening to my kind of music, and later taking them to my kind of concert, was working brilliantly.

The club we went to was located in a slightly sketchy neighborhood of Baltimore. We entered through the back door, a plain entrance with no markings of any kind.  The ticket taker checked my ID and wrote large “X”s on my kids’ hands as a signal the bartender that they were too young to drink.  I joked that if they ran to the bathroom to wash their hands, they could get the X off before the permanent ink dried and get a drink.

My 12-year-old and 9-year-old were the only kids at the show.  Several other people looked at them and smiled at me.  One guy even came up and told me, “You must be a cool dad.”  “Either that or a really bad one,” I told him.  My 12-year-old felt self-conscious and stood with his arms crossed.  My youngest, however, sang along and participated in the call-and-response initiated by one of the rappers who encouraged the crowd to “meow” while he sang about kitties.

Lars closed his set with The Raven, and the entire place erupted.  I have always loved the feeling of listening to a song over and over your iPod and then seeing it performed live in a small venue where you can almost reach out and touch the musician.  I also wanted my kids to understand the appeal of underground music that I had long appreciated: that is you develop a private, personal connection to songs that none of your friends know and then share the concert experience with a room full of people who have also stumbled into the same obscure corner of the music universe as you.

After Lars left the stage, I noticed his green A’s hat emerge from behind the backstage curtain and make its way to the merchandise table.  I asked the kids if they wanted to meet him up close.  My oldest took a pass, but my youngest jumped at it.  We went up to Lars’ together. I shook his hand first and then stepped aside so that he could see my little wing man.  He came out from behind the merchandise table and knelt down on one knee to talk face-to-face with son.  As I lined up the camera,  Lars told my son to make the handsign for heavy metal.

This picture of MC Lars and my son now hangs in his bedroom.

MC Chris opened his show with a funny monologue about xbox games that my sons love to play.  Most of his songs are about Star Wars and pizza, and my kids hung on his every word.  My self-conscious 12-year-old started to loosen up.   When Chris introduced the next song by saying, “This song is about ninja’s” my kids were completely hooked.

After the show, Chris and Lars both hung out in the club talking to fans, taking pictures and signing autographs.  This is something that fans of Taylor Swift or the Black Eyed Peas will never get a taste of–a direct personal connection.   As the people in front of us snapped their pictures with Chris and moved on, we stepped up.  Chris seemed really excited to meet his littlest fans.  He even pulled out his iPhone and took a picture of my kid wearing his sweatshirt.  He spent time talking to them about what they thought of the show and which songs they like and whatnot.  As I lined up my camera, my oldest son put on a ninja mask attached to his sweatshirt, Chris followed suit by flipping up his hoodie and the two of them stood shoulder-to-shoulder, arms folded, looking like tough guys.

My oldest son and MC Chris doing the ninja thing

In the car on the way back, the kids both raved about what a great show it had been. I felt a certain satisfaction that I had nudged them down the same road that I have been traveling on for the past 25 years–just as I had planned it since that Green Day show way back when.

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I took my kids on a 7-day roadtrip down to the Gulf to see the oil spill up close.  It was a fascinating, education and sad trip.  The image that will stay with us is this one of a oiled-up pelican trying to fly.  We saw it at Grand Isle State Park just as we were leaving.  Workers approached the bird with a net, but it had the strength to evade the net, beat its heavy wings, and fly back to the oily water.

I will have more blog entries on this trip in coming days/weeks.

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Three times in recent weeks an uncomfortable topic has come up in conversation with my kids; child molestation.  First,my children have heard the drip drip drip of charges in the news against Catholic priests.  Secondly, something happened at my kids’ elementary school a few weeks ago that prompted a call to the police.  Finally the movie Precious came out on DVD.  Child molestation is not an issue my wife and I had planned to address in detail at this moment but now that it has come up, I figured it was time for my  12, 11, and 8 year old to become aware that this issue not only exists but is a topic open for discussion in our house.

I found, however, that the harsh reality that some people feel the need to touch children in a sexual way is almost impossible to explain.  When my kids asked the inevitable question, Why?, I really had no words that get at the motivation of a molester. … (more…)

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Update: Duke won their game and my kids won the pool.  I am not sure what their current plans are for the windfall.

My kids–12, 10, and eight– know about as much about March Madness as I know about Indonesian badminton, yet their NCAA men’s basketball bracket is one game away from winning –for them–an astronomical sum of $450.  When I paid their $10 entry fee and made their selections just five minutes before the start of the tournament last week, I hoped the opportunity to win some money might entice them to put down the Xbox controller and sign off of Facebook long enough to watch a few games with their dad.

I never thought they had a serious chance to beat 51 other people and win the pool outright. … (more…)

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Last year at this time I lost a night of sleep after my children grumbled about what they thought was a paltry Christmas.  My 11-year-old son, for example, was irked that his younger sister got a slightly nicer cellphone than his.  In the midst of a global recession that caused some families in our neighborhood to lose their homes to bank foreclosure, I felt my kids needed a better understanding of what was going on in the world and to temper their unseemly sense of entitlement to the latest $60 videogames, $10 first-run movie tickets and the latest stuff they see advertised on tv.

Following last Christmas, I arranged for them to make two phone calls.  The first one to their 89-year-old great-grandfather in Denver and ask him about what Christmas was like for him in 1932 during the Great Depression.  Then they talked to the local power company and got some stats on the number of families in and around our zip code who were having a cold, dark Christmas because they could not afford to pay their electric bill.  They were instructed to ask questions and write down the answers.  In the end, they actually kind of enjoyed the exercise, learned something, and understood why Daddy was making them do it.  But would it stick with them? I didn’t know.

This Christmas I found out the answer. (more…)

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Washing dishes

Washing dishes

My wife and I have always wanted our four children from an early age to develop a sense of responsibility and eventually an actual work ethic to prepare them to go out in the world someday with a healthy understanding of how things work.  This process, I think, should begin early by teaching 2 or 3 year old to clean up toys when they are done with them.  You build on it later by having your kids as young as 3 or 4 begin doing simple chores such as getting the mail.  Still later as chores become routine and the work becomes heavier, you can offer your kids an allowance as an incentive.

Here’s how we did it:

CHORES:   There are a lot of things that small kids can do to play an active role in keeping the household running.  I started with having my kids at four years old … (more…)

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