Last night marked the beginning of an auspicious new chapter in my 11 year-old son’s life: Day One on my, I mean his, journey to becoming a rockstar. (Note to self: Remember to tag this blog post with #helicopterparenting.) After years of dinner table cajoling and backseat threats, I finally pulled the trigger and signed Everett up for piano lessons. It’s ridiculous that this has taken so long to come to fruition. The music school is well-respected in these parts, and we know many families who swear by it. More importantly, a 5-minute walk from our house delivers the student right into the studio. Maybe less than 5 minutes, actually.
Though the walk felt more like an hour last night. Because I spent the entire time engaged in an exhausting mental wrestling match with Everett as he struggled to shake free of this new obligation. I had successfully entrapped him into agreeing to the lessons months earlier; the result of a sophisticated plan, at the end of which I basically had him painted into a corner. While wearing a straightjacket. And blinders. And a neck brace, nay, one of those halos affixed to the skulls of accident victims. My point? There was no getting out of this one — a realization with which Everett suddenly came to grips during our .3 mile walk. I half-expected him to mumble, “walkin’ the (third of a) mile, walkin’ the green (third of a) mile, walkin’ the (third of a) mile…”
It’s one of my principal regrets, as I approach the half century mark: I rue the day when, as a jelly-headed high school senior, I impulsively elected to bail on band. Early morning practice was just too early, I decided, and not worth the hour of sacrificed sleep. So dumb. I had played trumpet for years, was actually pretty good, and experienced some success with it. I still hold a tiny grudge against my mother for going along with this ill-informed decision. I think a swift kick in the ass was in order rather than acquiescence. (I am compounding things now, as my mom is my most loyal “Lemonade Chronicles” reader. So I sure hope my throwing her under the bus here does not mean my readership will conspicuously drop by one. Hi mom.)
Therefore, some 30 years later, I pulled a well-used page from The Book of Helicopter Parenting, and essentially forced Everett to do something in order to fulfill my own unfulfilled aspirations. I admit it. Of course I would never admit this to Everett. Zero indication of my own burning internal conflict over this decision. Certainly not during our stroll down the Third of a Green Mile.
The story does end well, however, at least as far as this particular first chapter goes. But, as is seemingly the case with everything else in life, not the way one might expect. I had expended so much mental energy just getting Everett to “agree” once and for all to take a lesson, that I screwed up the scheduled time of the lesson. I proudly presented myself at the front desk at 5:30pm with a self-satisfied smile. Well, the lesson time was actually 5:00pm. I had practically dragged a dead-legged Everett along the sidewalk, scuffing his sneaker soles down to the nub on the concrete. All for nothing. And there wasn’t a damned thing I could do about it. Even had to pay a fee for showing up late. Probably should have been assessed yet another fee for “blatant and unforgivable helicopter parenting.” Then again, that fee is called “adolescent psychotherapy” — a bill to be karmically incurred downstream, no doubt.
Everett, of course, was as elated as I deflated. Slump-shouldered, I salvaged my attempt to stimulate the part of his brain associated with artsy stuff and creativity by making an unscheduled stop at a nearby art supplies store. Ev practically waltzed around the aisles on his tiptoes, still euphoric over his near-death experience, professing his newfound love for everyone and everything. And somehow, a sketchpad and pack of felt-tipped markers caught Everett’s attention and ultimately made their way with us to the local burger joint. That’s where my helicopter parented son with greasy fingers managed to exercise his frontal and parietal regions without my forcing him to do so. And that neat little patterned illustration at the top of this blog post was the result.
No rain, no rainbows.
Thanks for reading.