I grew up with parents who were really into music. Like really into music. I received my first Bowie and Rolling Stones records from my dad, who would insist that the neighborhood girls who darkened our doorway to play Barbies or hopscotch call him “Major Tom” – after Bowie’s 1969 single Space Oddity. Our house shook, my parents played music so loudly that conversations during these afternoons were impossible. I can remember crawling under my covers with my Nancy Drew, trying to escape the incessant strum and feedback of Jeff Beck while my mom cooked mashed potatoes for dinner. My dad discarding headphones for sharing music with me and my sisters, a can of PBR leaving condensation on the coffee table. This is how I grew up, parents who saw The Stones and The Who in concert, who taught me how to appreciate Blind Lemon Jefferson and Rod Stewart. I planned on raising my babies the same way, my husband rocking them to sleep while softly humming Springsteen‘s Born To Run.
That is until my middle son turned 11.
I like to think I have a vast and varied appreciation for music. I love almost everything. I can appreciate opera to country, and not that pop country like you see warbled by some scrawny kid from Iowa during American Idol auditions, but real country. I know what the kids are into these days, the Danny Brown and Kanye West, and I can even feign an interest in my nine-year-old daughter’s kid’s show claque. But my 11-year-old is something else, because he has decided he has an intense adoration of the one type of music I know nothing about and have a difficult time getting into – heavy metal.
I wanted to be the mom who could share music with my kids, who could dig out old LPs and tell them about seeing Bowie in concert, but here I am with a son who wants to know all about Ronnie James Dio and which Iron Maiden CD he should get into. He scours you tube for videos by bands I can’t relate to, Slayer and Megadeath and ones I really don’t think he should be listening to, with names like Cannibal Corpse and Napalm Death. We try and distract him with things from our own upbringing that may sate his need for fast chord riffs and epic drum solos, the Led Zepplin and Hendrix, but unless it involves a lot of leather and skull imagery, he isn’t interested. I can understand the appeal of metal to some extent, but I just don’t know enough about it or enjoy listening to it enough to share this fascination with my kid.
I think back to being around his age and my own parents rolling their eyes when I started getting into music they didn’t have an appreciation for, how my dad reluctantly loaned me his headphones so I could sit in my room and play Prince on repeat, ignoring him when he told me that it was pop music and trying to convince me James Brown was a better substitute. I remember feeling sort of embarrassed and guilty, but also defiant because these were my jams, something I discovered on my own, this funky musical genius from Minneapolis who scared my parents with his tight purple velvet pants and his eyeliner application. My own mom probably felt the same way when she chose Elvis over her ownÂ mother’s Mario Lanza. I don’t want my kid to feel bad for what he likes, even if I do find it boring and have yet to really understand the appeal of Sabbath. I guess I better start listening.