“Let’s all get up and dance to a song
That was a hit before your mother was born
Though she was born a long long time ago,
Your mother should know.”
--- John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Having children is a tricky deal. After all, you never know how things will come out. You contribute your genetic material with great hope, but let’s face it—it’s a crap shoot. I may hope my kids get my blue eyes and creative streak, while picking up a good metabolism and nice teeth from their father. But, just like Forrest Gump’s mama warned us, “You never know what you’re going to get.”
And the nurturing part is just as tricky as the nature part. I mean, we do our best to raise them in our footsteps, feeding them our values and exposing them to all we believe to be good. But you never know if that’s going to backfire. That whole rebellious thing kicks in, and you end up with a child who is totally different than you are in just about any way. It’s just like that old Michael J. Fox series, Family Ties, in which the liberal hippie parents end up raising a conservative kid who loves Nixon and cares more about conquering Wall Street than raising consciousness or ending the war.
Yeah, I know that was just TV, but you know what they say about art imitating life. Or was that the other way around? Anyway, I digress.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that even the best intentions sometimes go awry, especially when it comes to children. But there is good news, too. Sometimes your kids make choices and pick up habits that totally delight you—and you have no idea how that happened. Somehow they make it from point A to point B too effortlessly for you to take credit for it. You just have to watch, and breathe a sigh of relief.
Which brings us to last Thursday night, which I spent at the Academy of Music in Philly. We were there as a result of a Christmas present to my youngest son, Max—tickets to see Rain, the Beatles tribute band. Max, much to my happy surprise, has become quite the Beatles fan. I don’t know how that happened, really. I mean, I have loved the Fab Four since I was a tot, and of course their music permeated our home throughout the years. But my other kids all followed the route most kids do. They eventually find mom and dad’s music old-fashioned and boring, and move on to choices that leave their parents confused and dismayed. I mean, how can they choose Ludacris or LL Cool J when they’ve been brought up on Springsteen and the Grateful Dead? (You know, the good stuff.)
But by some stroke of fate (I call it a miracle), Max has fallen in love with the music of my growing up years, and especially the Beatles. He collects it in various forms (including vinyl), he catalogs it, he knows it in a way I never did. He can point out the variances in recordings and has extensive knowledge of the difference between the British and U.S. version of albums.
All of which amazes me. “No, I didn’t know that,” I say as he points out the part of the song where Ringo didn’t feel well and they had to bring in a replacement drummer. “But it has a good beat, doesn’t it?”
So getting Rain tickets was a no-brainer. Obviously, he’ll never see the real Beatles—heck, I was too young for that. But it’s always great to get into a room with a bunch of graying baby boomers and dance together to the music that played along with our growing up. And doing it while sitting next to your 15-year-old, who is singing along with every song and never misses a word, makes you feel oh so much better about all that parenting stuff.
I think my parents knew that, too. I remember my first Christmas as a college student. I was home from Valparaiso and celebrating the day with my siblings. The gifts were already opened and admired when our dad presented us with one more present—a cake-topper of the Beatles, dressed in the proper gray suits of their early days. The little plastic figures were standing on a wooden stage. From the stage, four ribbons emerged—one for each of us. When we pulled our ribbons, we found they were attached to a ticket for Beatlemania (which I guess was the late '70s predecessor to Rain), which we went to see at their Philadelphia show before I went back to school.
Sometimes, parents hit upon just the right gift. And sometimes, standing side by side with your child while the refrain of “Hey Jude” wafts around the room, you get back better than you give.
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