Florida Commentaries - Brad Stager


It seems to be a most natural impulse for parents to want to impart, if not impose, cultural tastes and attitudes upon their children.

Influencing the tastes of our kids is a tricky business and the effort is fraught with potential miscues and unintended consequences.

And it's not just a matter of the potential brain damage from slipping a pair of cushy headphones over a toddler's ears and cranking up Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. The biggest hazard in trying to promote the virtues of one's musical heritage to the household progeny is to be viewed as hopelessly irrelevant, if not already fossilized.

But that doesn't stop parents from trying.

Probably the most extreme manifestation of this endeavor is to drag the kids along to a concert by popular music artists old enough to be their grandparents.

When one such certifiable popular music legend from back in my day came to town, I planned on going and seriously considered taking my three-year-old daughter. Mr. Rock and Roll Legend didn't have too many tours left in him, and I figured it was a good opportunity to introduce her to the world of live music.

However, I thought better of the idea and went alone.

It turned out to be a good move, because I saw firsthand what a bad idea it can be to drag the kids along to a concert of mom and dad's music.

I changed seats about halfway through the show and found myself sitting near a family. It could have been a 21st century Norman Rockwell scene. Mom, Pop, Buddy and Sis, out together for an evening of tunes that span the last five decades.

From what I could tell, dad was enjoying the show most, which rendered him either oblivious or insensitive to the apparent boredom of his children.

The boy, who was around eight years old, was getting fidgety and could barely contain himself. But he probably figured he was in a situation where he could throw his fiercest tantrum and no one would notice.

The daughter, apparently of middle-school age, gave this exercise in music appreciation a chance. She listened attentively, applauded and even seemed to ask meaningful questions that really seemed to please her father. But even she had her limits. Boredom settled in and her questions now seemed to be more like, Isn't this over yet?

And as clouds of other people's herbal exhaust wafted over this neo-Rockwellian scene, I hoped for her sake she didn't plan on wearing her sweater, which probably was starting to smell like an Amsterdam coffee shop to class the next day. And as she turned her attention from the act on stage to the crowd in order to identify the source, she looked more curious than offended. Hopefully, she took earlier note of the near-incapacitated lady stumbling up the steps to her seat as an indication of the perils of such indulgences. The parents meanwhile, seemed uncomfortable with the situation, but decided to pass on this teachable moment.

Shortly after this, I changed seats again and didn't notice whether the family stuck it out through the encores. But I figured there was a lesson there. What I saw was about the same as if my parents had dragged me to a Lawrence Welk concert four decades earlier.

I think more highly of the champagne music genre now than I did then, but that's because my appreciation for a wide range of music has evolved over time, and is not the result of cultural force-feeding. Let nature take its course in these things, I surmised. Besides, you know there's going to be payback from the kids for this. Someday, they're going to ask, 'Please take us to the Incubus concert.'

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