funny with a soundtrack

Rock Mom Enough

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It’s one a.m. on a Saturday night. The music is loud, really loud, and above the din, there are the voices of young males fighting over the last slice of pizza.

I pull the pillow up over my head, hoping to muffle the commotion. I’m tired and I have to get up and make breakfast for these lovable louts in the morning. So when it continues, I do what my mother would’ve done: I go into my 14yo son’s room  and tell him and his friends to “Turn that racket down!”; which I soon realize, is kind of funny, because they’re listening to my band’s CD. I am the racket I want him to turn down. Crazy kids.

My husband and I have played in our band, Jehova Waitresses since before our boys were born. So up until then, we generally spent our time traveling around in an old Dodge van playing shows, releasing CDs, living off a steady diet of pizza and Taco Bell and dressing like the original Broadway cast of Rent.  Ah…freedom. I can almost hear George Michael singing it, and even he said ‘you gotta give for what you take’.

So of course, having kids was a big adjustment. You miss the open road, if not the Motel 6’s, but you do gain experience in the art of fighting with children after living with your bandmates 24/7. And even with boys, your home bathroom will never be as bad as the one’s you’ve seen in rock clubs.

I’ve always strived to be the “cool mom”; like Patti Smith. There’s a certain pride in knowing that when their friends shout “Hey! Your mother wears army boots!” at them, that yes, yes I do!

But we all know that kids never think their parents are cool, no matter what they do, and I’m sure even Ozzy Osbourne’s kids rolled their eyes a time or two, if for no other reason but for the fact that he couldn’t work the TV remote.

My 14yo son Max likes to refer to our Indie Americana band as “that hillbilly Kumbaya band you two play in”, and for a while, we worried that he might become a jock. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it would’ve been a little too Alex P. Keaton for this household.

So when Max wanted to learn to play guitar we were all over it. This would be something we could bond over. I agreed to play Guitar Hero with him if he’d let me show him the bar chords to Green Day songs on a real guitar. I think deep down he enjoyed the fact that his mom was teaching him how to play American Idiot, but he was equally mortified. For his sake, I was willing to pretend to be out of touch just enough to refer to the lead singer as Billie Joel Armstrong. “Mom!” he’d admonish, “it’s Billie JOE Armstrong!” I’d say, “Oh, is it? Well, I think their latest album just dropped at Walmart’s.”

It was a proud moment when my son came home and announced that he and his friends were starting a band. They practiced in our garage/studio and while I plugged in their amps, one of his friends asked me if I’d tune his guitar. After obliging, I might have played a few bars of Longview, just to prove I’ve still got it. And his friends might have exclaimed “Wow, Mrs. Roy! You know how to play Green Day?”.  And I may have said yes and plunged headlong into an epic Green Day medley, spiraling my kid into horrified embarrassment.

Things only got worse for our kids when my husband a punk band, Grumpy Old Punks, churning out songs with titles like That’s No MILF, That’s My Wife.  But that just builds character, right?

When I got a Rickenbacker electric guitar, my Les Paul playing son wanted to play it. I agreed, but under one condition: he had to have a good old fashioned jam session with his mama, take it or leave it. He chose to leave it.

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It wasn’t two minutes before he came in arguing,

“That’s not how it goes, Mom. It starts out like this.”

“Oh, really? Is that how Billie Joel Armstrong plays it?”

“C’mon Mom…you know it’s Billie JOE.”

“Do I?”

And here’s how I know it’s okay to be the eccentric mom with the guitar and the Indie band:  if it gets my kid to see me as a person beyond the nagging parental unit who’s very existence seems to stem and derive pleasure from getting him to pick up after himself and do his homework, if I can teach him something that he considers useful and fun, if we can connect on this level and I can possibly stave off the almost inevitable intrusion of Jay Z or Cool Whoever, bursting forth from his bedroom speakers….I mean, damn! he actually listens to my hillbilly Kumbaya band – then I’ll have done my job, and we’ll have bonded.  And in the words of Billie Joel Armstrong, he loves me “Just the Way I Am”.

37 Comments

  1. April 1, 2014    

    I’m listenin to one Mod Mom. Love this.

  2. April 1, 2014    

    Wait, it’s not Billy Joel Armstrong? Damn.

    I’m so glad I’ve gotten to know the IRL Linda and family. You’re not only the cool mom but the wise one, too.

    This was perfect

    • April 1, 2014    

      yeah, you been sayin’ it wrong. ;) aw, thanks lb.

  3. April 1, 2014    

    I’m pretty sure that having a teenage son listen to YOUR MUSIC with his friends makes you pretty damn cool, in my book at least, if not in his.
    Great piece of writing. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. lrconsiderer's Gravatar lrconsiderer
    April 1, 2014    

    Bless his (army?) boots :D

  5. TheAnimatedWoman's Gravatar TheAnimatedWoman
    April 1, 2014    

    I see what you did there!

    When my eldest picked up the guitar, I stopped playing, to give her space. She wouldn’t have ventured into it otherwise.

    • April 1, 2014    

      oh wow – you play? that’s very cool that you did that for her. aw, i wish we could jam sometime. ;)

  6. April 1, 2014    

    My 14 yr old says you’re on her ipod. So some kids think you’re cool. But she’s a girl and we know what boys think they know.

    • April 1, 2014    

      yes, and tell her that her monthly check is on the way. ;)

  7. April 1, 2014    

    I would have LOVED if my mother had any interest in rock and roll…but I suppose it’s not called that anymore either. Sigh.

    • April 1, 2014    

      oh gawd, me too. the coolest thing my mom listened to was herb alpert and the tijuana brass. it’s so depressing that our music is classic rock now. *sigh*

  8. Natalie DeYoung's Gravatar Natalie DeYoung
    April 1, 2014    

    Haha, what a tough lesson, to learn your mom is cool. I think I learned my parents were cool at fifteen, when I started snatching their Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin records.
    Don’t worry, they’ll get it eventually.

    • April 1, 2014    

      you have some cool parents nat. led zep and fleetwood mac? that’s excellent. my mom was into andy williams; that is, until she found out he gave his friends coke spoons for christmas.

  9. menopausalmother's Gravatar menopausalmother
    April 1, 2014    

    Love this, LOVE the relationship you have with your boy, and how cool to bond over a love of music?!?

    • April 1, 2014    

      i went and saw a friend’s band the other night and his son played drums. i thought wow – i hope our kids play with us onstage someday.

  10. April 1, 2014    

    That is so awesome, especially that they were playing your music! Good for you for embarrassing him, it’s part of the parent package. I would hate to think any kid out there wasn’t getting that.
    I’m tone deaf, but I was super proud of my son for playing “Blackbird” for his little sisters one day in the car when they were crabby. My rap-listening son also has Beatles on his phone, I did something right :)

    • April 1, 2014    

      You definitely did good and are doing society a solid by raising your kids to appreciate The Beatles! Keep up the good work Joy!

  11. April 1, 2014    

    You rock, Linda. I hope he keeps it up and will join you on stage one day!

  12. April 2, 2014    

    Love this Linda! You need to read this at the LTYM Open Mic Night at BlogHer! xoxo

    • April 2, 2014    

      Thanks Tarja! I would love to do that. Will bring it with me to San Jose. :)

  13. April 2, 2014    

    Love this. My son plays – but he is more metal than me – Metallica etc. I taught him Crazy Train which he continues to play at ridiculously fast speed – imagine a speed metal version! I use to keep shouting “slow down” to no avail!

    • April 2, 2014    

      My son started with Deep Purple and Sabbath, so I know what you mean!

  14. Kir Piccini's Gravatar Kir Piccini
    April 2, 2014    

    I think this is awesome, finding a common place with your child is like having Christmas morning more than once a year.
    If Jacob continues to love words, the stage or Harry potter as much as I do, I’d be more than happy to step behind him, cheer and wearing designer clothing as his date to awards shows. ;-) (dreaming too big??? Lol)

    And that Billy Joe joke is even funnier from thus side, my 6yr old twins have recently discovered Billy Joel and Springsteen via VEVO and they love them.. But fir weeks Jacob called him Billy Joe instead of Joel and made us giggle until he wanted to listen to ‘Sometimes a Fantasy’ again. ;-)

    • April 2, 2014    

      That is so funny Kir! You got it in reverse. I have to tell my son that – he’ll get a kick out of it. :)

  15. April 2, 2014    

    I loved this post, Linda. It vividly captures the transitions into parenthood and the delights and frustrations of these changes. Also I’m amused at the ‘hillbilly Kumbaya band’ jibe. Good stuff!

  16. April 2, 2014    

    I love it. I love it. I love it.

    But that doesn’t surprise me at all. You have the Midas touch with me, Linda. And I wouldn’t say that if It didn’t mean it.

    Billie Joel Armstrong is excellent. I like to mix up Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan in front of my (sorry but he’s athletic) son’s friends. Pisses him off every time.

    We’ll need to put our heads together to come up with a few more. 14 year olds are so damned easy.

    Thanks for linking up with Ketchup, Linda. Tell your friends! (I know. You always do. Thanks for that, too.) Hope to see you again on the 15th.

    • April 2, 2014    

      Thanks Michele! I’m gonna use the Jackson/Jordon on my kid; he’s kinda sporty and it’ll piss him off too. It’s fun pissin’ ‘em off, isn’t it? I’ll say things like “Are you on The Twitter?” or – oh and this one got him to the point he told his friends – “Don’t drink the purple drug water the kids are drinking at the parties. I saw it on The Today Show.”. He was like “GOD MOM! I don’t even know what that IS? What’s the matter with you?” Well, way too much to try to explain to him, anyway. See you on the 15th!

  17. April 2, 2014    

    You are so freakin’ cool – you rock ‘n roll mom! I love this in so many ways. So many relateable things for me – I saw Patti Smith during her Horses tour…..saw Billy Joel tour a long time back, have 2 kids who are really into rock ‘n roll. Love the idea of you ripping into a Green Day medley in front of your sons friends – that must have been hiliarious. Rock on, girl! And your last sentence does just sum it up perfectly. Wish I could connect with my son on this type of level…. he’s into sports and I’m SO not a sports person.

    • April 2, 2014    

      Aw, thanks Claudia! Such an excellent thing to say! I’m so envious that you saw Patti on the Horses tour. wow. Love her. Have you read her book? It’s stellar and SO inspiring. I’m so not a sports person either, and Max is kind of into sports, but the best I can do is playing (and sucking at) soccer video games. ;)

  18. April 2, 2014    

    Wow, even “cool parents” can embarrass their teens, but you have to work a little harder at it. It’s much easier for geeks; trust me.

  19. April 2, 2014    

    This is a near-perfect post.

  20. Mel's Gravatar Mel
    April 7, 2014    

    I wanna be you when I grow up. Seriously.

give me your two cents. i'm broke.

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Hi! I'm Linda Roy. My nickname is elleroy. I'm a humorist, musician, writer, mom, and the female Larry David. I'll criticize your parallel parking to prove it. I write about where I've been, what I'm doing and where I'm going. If anybody asks, tell 'em "elleroy was here".

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