We influence our children in ways we don’t realize, in ways we couldn’t predict. Just by being ourselves, our human selves, we introduce things and concepts and foods and all sorts of stuff to our children. While we talk so much these days about mindful parenting, about being careful and intentional with our time and what we expose our kids to, we are human beings with likes and desires and experiences and failures and hopes and dreams.
Our children deserve all of that; our children benefit from our humanness.
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I sat across the bench seat of the gold pickup truck from my dad; one of his hands on the stick shift and the other draped across the steering wheel. The wind from my open passenger side window whipped through my long brown hair, tangling it in knots behind my head. The sun streamed through the windshield; too short for the sun visor to be effective, I shielded my eyes from the sun with my hand. This scene played itself out any number of times in any number of trucks at any number of heights, of all of which remained too short for the sun visor to make a difference.
In those trucks on those drives, to and from voice lessons and softball practices to musical performances, I learned about my dad. I didn’t learn about his parenting ideals and how he imagined he might raise me and how, once here, I changed anything he might have thought about parenting because that’s what kids do. I learned that my dad loves sports on some deep core level that allows him to ignore the absolutely grating sound of static on AM radio. I learned he’s really hard to “beat” in a philosophical conversation; I still remember how flabbergasted I felt the one day when he threw out, “But if you were meant to be you, wouldn’t you have been you anyway?” I learned the stories of his youth. I learned about what made him a human being; I learned what made him tick, what made him mad, what made him him.
And I learned his music.
In the background of all of these little-but-big conversations, the radio played music—when it wasn’t making me claw my ears out because of the static on AM radio. Sometimes we listened to what I wanted to listen to, whatever was new and “hip” and on B94 in Pittsburgh. But often, my dad controlled the radio because, as we all know, the driver owns the controls. When we weren’t discussing the deep things in life, he taught me what he knew about music. Like most things he has an interest in, he knew a lot about music. He taught me little weird things about individual songs and funny stories about bands. I learned that he doesn’t like Beatles or Jimi Hendrix. And I knew early on, he loved Fleetwood Mac and that he adored Stevie Nicks.
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On Mother’s Day 2003, the beginnings of a Munchkin growing somewhere deep within my belly, I saw Fleetwood Mac in Pittsburgh. At that time, still healthy, I felt that it was a fitting beginning to our journey together. A band that was one of my father’s favorites and eventually became one of my favorites was kicking it off for us. I didn’t know then what I know now. I didn’t know what was to come, how much heartache awaited. My hand fluttered to my still flat belly when Stevie reminded us that even children get older; I so looked forward to watching her grow up as my daughter.
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I called my dad today, shortly after learning that Fleetwood Mac will be in Pittsburgh on October 14. “Guess who’s touring this fall!”
He started an unnecessarily long but characteristically my dad type of guess. I laughed and told him. We discussed the ins and outs of what it means that Christie McVie is back with the band. He joked about how I old I am now. At some point a co-worker walked by and caught wind of the conversation.
“This is why you raise your kids with your music. So that when your favorite band starts touring 30 years later, she’ll call and tell you.”
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I don’t know which bands will tour in 25 some odd years that make my children pick up the phone, giddy to tell me, knowing that I won’t already know. I don’t know what movies they’ll watch in future decades and recall watching it with us on evening. I don’t know what meals they’ll want to make for their own kids. I don’t know if they’ll remember the way I danced them around the kitchen to all the Broadway tunes. I don’t know whether they’ll like any of my music or any of my books or movies or foods or stories.
But I share them anyway.
I want my sons, and someday my daughter, to know me as a human being in addition to being their mother. I want to be real to them, more than parenting theories and routines and bedtimes and chores. I don’t need to be their best friend right now, but I do need them to know who I am.
Hopefully when they’re nearly 33, they’ll want to call and tell me about my favorite band. Or just call me at all.