Mar 9, 2007

Come As You Are

My son got in the car and didn't say anything as I picked him up from school yesterday.

This is normal, because he is going through one of those adolescent phases of rebelliousness that drive parents crazy. Still, I miss the days when he would pepper me with questions about sports, history, politics, or music as we tooled around.

Adolescence has been tough on this kid. He is gangly, brilliant, aloof, sensitive, and angry. Always a bit of an outsider, his quirkiness has sometimes made him the target of juvenile taunts, and he has trouble responding in a socially-acceptable fashion. Lately he has been getting into physical altercations with his tormentors, and this has caused him to run afoul of the school administrators.

Needless to say, he and I have been butting heads over his school performance, so Dad has been added to the list of people his melodramatic teenage mind is rebelling against. Thus, the silent treatment in the car.

One small source of friction for us is the car radio. He likes to station-surf, and prefers alternative rock, punk, and hard edged bands like Underoath and AFI. I prefer to listen to the classic rock and oldies stations, and he will often turn off a song I enjoy in search of something he prefers.

Occasionally, though, a song pops up that engages both of our musical tastes, and yesterday the Nirvana song "Come as You Are" was the first tune he came across. This is a bleak, sometimes angry song that was perhaps the true essence of Kurt Cobain.

My son sang along with Cobain, and I chimed in with the harmony vocals as I drove:

And I swear that I don't have a gun
No, I don't have a gun.

While I might have chosen a more upbeat song to make a connection with my angst-filled kid, I was thankful for the opportunity to be able to share something with him, even a musical work that paints such a dreary picture.

And, though no words were directly passed between us, the tension from the arguments of the past few days visibly lessened. He still looked out the window, but his gaze seemed momentarily less sullen.

Or maybe we just read whatever we want into a ten-minute car trip, lost in our own thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Hpe your son survives adolescence, Mike. I would never go back there!!


McCaskey said...

Ah yes, the wonder years. As in wondering when the hell they'll ever be over.

My kids are not quite there, although my daughter is 13 and is expressing interest about a boy a grade ahead of her (gasp!).

My wife and I got married somewhat late in life so we're "older" parents. We do have tons of patience, and are good listeners, and one of the things we insist upon is communication, early and often, about any and all subjects. Although I realize as the kids get older the "communicating" from their end might cease to the point of being non-existant.

For now, though, we have a neat Friday night ritual. We all hang out in one of the kids' rooms and play music for an hour or two and just talk, about what's bugging us, how the week went, etc. We take turns on the music end, playing what each of us likes; me of course everything from Beatles and Stones and Motown and Van Morrison to Cowboy Junkies and U2, my wife mostly Celtic music, my daughter John Mayer and Dixie Chicks and my son Coldplay, Fallout Boy and Yellow Card.

Some day that Friday night ritual will end, but for now it's something we all look forward to every weekend and know its to be cherished.

Heidi said...

Cool blog, I came across it randomly. From what you wrote about your son, it sounds like he's a good kid. Keep it up.

microdot said...

I still get excited and goose bumps everytime I hear the opening bass guitar riff of that song. Curt Kobain was really on to something, he seemed to use an emotional "shorthand" with his impressionistic lyrics that conveyed so much with so little.
Rich raw lyrical emotional music that seems not to age. Your son has good taste!

historymike said...

Thanks, JD. I wouldn't g back to being a teen, either, unless I could take my wisdom with me.

THAT would be a potent combination: the energy of youth with the wisdom of a 43-year-old.

historymike said...

Enjoy those special years while you can, McCaskey.

Not all teens go through the rebellious/obnoxious phases. Only half of mine did, and this son is the only one still stuck in it.

But hey - he's still 16. If he's still like this when he's 21 then I'll worry more.

historymike said...

Thanks for the kudos, Heidi. You have a good site, also.

historymike said...

Yes, Microdot, my son has great musical tatse. I hope that he can channel his love for music into something he can make a career out of.

MP said...

Nirvana's music still unites people all these years later, even across generations.

And yet the former members of the band and Courtney Love are constantly at each other's throats over Kurt's legacy.

Maybe that's because Courtney killed him.

Sorry, my own conspiracy theories coming up again. It happens for me around this time of year, half a month from the anniversary of his premature death.

Hooda Thunkit said...

What a strange "bonding" moment that must have been ;-)