I can feel you judging me. Stop it right now, Linda. Turn around, look at your phone, and stop acting like this is the most entertaining event you’ve ever attended. They’re 4th-graders with $2.00 plastic recorders, and the sounds they are making are god-awful. You know it, and I know it. So, don’t you dare applaud those shrieks and screeches and then turn around and look at me like I’m a terrible father for wincing.
Oh no. Is the music teacher seriously going to talk between every song? For the love of all that is holy, why? Who is listening to her? Right. Linda. Stop looking interested, Linda; you’re making it worse. We all need to make it painfully obvious to this teacher that no one cares that she had to explain to little Jordan what “hot cross buns” were.
We’re going to be here forever. I’m going to die in this seat. Well, if he wears them to my funeral, at least my son will get more than one night’s use out of the new purple necktie, white shirt, and khaki pants we had to spend another $80 on this grading period. I can imagine Linda scowling about that over the top of my casket right now. She’ll show up, though, because it would be a waste to miss a social media opportunity to exploit her son’s alleged feelings surrounding the passing of his friend’s father.
What am I even thinking about? I’ve lost my sanity. These painfully choppy and wavering notes have put me over the edge. Look at those poor kids; they look miserable up there. Their stubby little fingers don’t even really reach all the holes. No wonder they can’t hit these notes. Oh no. We’re going to have to hear about what a challenge those notes are for them, aren’t we? We’re never leaving this auditorium.
I want to support my son, and in a lot of ways I do. He doesn’t even want to do this, though, and there are just so many of these types of things. It’s not enough to go to your kid’s ballgame anymore. You have to be at every practice for the duration now. Everyone scowls at the neglectful parent that drops their kid off and comes back later to pick them up. I tried to beat the system by helping to coach, but that only amounted to me spending the entire practice and time afterward listening to the ever-present parents tell me how their child should not go a single play without being directly involved in all the action.
You can’t even leave when your kid is finished in one of these concerts. Oh, no. The students are divided up by grades and the grades are divided up into classes. There are no set changes, but somehow there’s a 10-minute lull between every group. Is that Good King Wenceslas again? I’ll eat my shirt if we didn’t already hear Good King Wenceslas once. Sweet fancy Moses, we’ve been here for so long that no one else seems to remember.
Our parents didn’t do this. Not like this. Not to this degree. When did our society become so child-centric? When I was young, parents had their adult lives, and children tagged around behind them whether they liked it or not. I cannot possibly recount for you the number of hours I spent staring at bolts of cloth while my mother shopped at Joann Fabric. I knew plenty of kids who weren’t permitted to play sports or take lessons in various activities because their parents didn’t want to be bothered with dropping them off and picking them up.
Back then it was a great birthday if you were allowed to have a few kids sleep overnight at your house. Now every single birthday for every single child involves reservations, formal invitations and expensive, extravagant themes. I’m expected to attend garish, afternoon-long weekend parties for children that are too young to even be properly interested in opening gifts, let alone to register my attendance or to appreciate the custom-made vinyl SpongeBob banner.
We surround them with all of this overwhelming focus and excessive attention, and then we wonder why they grow up with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. We’ve only dedicated every minute of two complete adult lives to more than fulfilling your every wish and desire, little Jordan, why on earth would you think you’re going to be deserving of special treatment when you grow up?
My wife hands me her phone so that I can continue capturing video of the concert. My son is staring with squinted eyes up at the stage lights while the music teacher talks. Am I supposed to be recording this part? A harsh look from my wife tells me that I am. She stands and awkwardly tries to make her way out of the row of seats so that she can sneak up to the front to get a better angle. She has to get good video for her mom, she tells me, because her mom couldn’t make it. Grandma nearly cancelled her cross-country vacation when she heard it conflicted with her seeing my son’s recorder concert. After much debate, she finally accepted the video recording alternative. I’m sure she’ll call before the concert is even over.
When we’re finally released from the auditorium, Linda and my wife are both glaring at me as if I somehow caused the concert to end prematurely. Three hours of poorly executed recorder music apparently wasn’t enough for them. Encore! Encore! I wade into the crush of parents and happen to catch the eye of a dad whose name I can’t remember. That’s okay, I can’t remember his son’s name either. Everyone becomes faceless when every activity is made into a spectacle.
“You know the score of the game right now?” he asks. He’s vastly underestimated my wife’s vigilance.
“Nah,” I answer, “I heard there was some amazing catch in yesterday’s game. You see it?”
“Nah,” he replies sheepishly, “Birthday party for my 1-year old niece.”