Saturday, September 17, 2011

What do you think?

Yesterday the weather had cooled enough to make cleaning C's rooms not seem like a torture session in a sweat box. Though he keeps his spaces semi-straightened he is not likely to pick up a dust rag or toss out an old game note if I am not standing over him with the duster and a trash bag. Because of this twice a year I go in and really clean out his rooms. It's a deal we have had for as long as I can remember. It used to come when he would leave for Mel Brown during the summer and Lionel Hampton in the winter, now it's when he leaves for school in the fall and again after Christmas. Anything he doesn't want me to see has to be put away and anything he wants to make sure he keeps needs to be as well. Then I go in and everything gets dusted and vacuumed, the shelves are straightened, books are put away, scraps of paper are tossed. The bed is stripped and the room is aired out. Everything is just tidied up.

So while I was doing this yesterday I couldn't help but smile. There was a little notebook that he has had for awhile. He has taken notes on a variety of things over the years. There were notes on a marketing plan he was making for me as a school project, actual musical notes written out for some composition he was working on, obvious game notes, arrows up down and sideways for codes as well as notes for games he was designing with plot points and boss levels spelled out. Then things that I had no idea what they meant and wasn't sure if I showed it to him if he would even remember anymore. I've written about my random notes before and to see his made me smile.

But the real treat came when I was dusting the shelves in his bedroom. I was moving his punk rock Elvis glasses to dust under them and Brian Setzer was playing on my iPod and I had to smile. This was when he was leading his big band playing re-worked Stray Cat material and other swing music. My dad loved big band and swing so I grew up listening to it with him. When C started playing trumpet I got the treat of listening to my son play music that my father loved. And that I loved as well. Some of the stuff C played I just didn't get. I like my jazz to hang together, he likes his to flow apart then come back together at the end. There were a lot of times during a concert he was playing in where the director would announce the song and C would make eye contact with me with an evil grin...and I knew somewhere in this song there would be mass soloing and it would be a hot mess. And he would love it. Not just because for him a really tight band is what mattered but because he would know I would be listening in the audience thinking...."hot mess!" Oh and those punk rock Elvis glasses? They were from the year he dressed up as Travis Touchdown for Halloween. Travis Touchdown is from No More Heroes. No, you probably haven't heard of him, most people haven't, but it didn't stop C from dressing up as him for Halloween a few years ago.

Anyway...right after the Brian Setzer song ended All Star started. This might be the very first song that C ever hated. If it would start on the radio he was switching it as fast as he could or if he couldn't reach the dial he was asking that it be switched. Hated it. And I really like it. Not the first time we have differed on music and most definitely not the last, he is full of eye rolls for my more "interesting" music selections and as an actual musician cannot stand a song with synthesized horns. As a child of the 80s synthesized instruments are a way of life. But the reason this made me smile is that for me as a parent I am always a little thrilled (sometimes it comes later after the exasperated part settles down) when he is strong in what he likes and dislikes. He has always been a kid, now an adult, who knows who he is. And I dig that. Even when I get ahead of myself making plans for him that he doesn't really want to follow.

Because, let's face it, most of our lives we will be told by others what they think of us. It's on our report cards as children, "Denise is easily bored and tends to distract the other children when they are trying to finish their work."  It's in our job reviews, "An area of improvement for you would be to show less frustration when others need more time to grasp a concept you are explaining."  We get it from parents, friends, children, spouses, everyone. They all let us know in big and small ways what they think of us.

The real trick is figuring out what you think of yourself. And this is where I have to give it to my son.  Even at 43 years old I have days where I let someone else's opinion of me color what I think of myself.  Where I have moments of self doubt wondering if I really am the person they just said I was.  This isn't the same as taking constructive criticism for areas of improvement and acting on them, (I did get better at hiding my frustration with people at work, usually. I never got better about distracting the other children at school.), I am talking about the moments where you are talking to someone and they give an opinion about you that you would never consider to be a true representation of yourself.  Those are the times that you have to think, okay, that's what you think of me....but what do I think of me?

So listening to music that he loves and then hates, moving the costume pieces around from Halloweens long ago and then seeing his picture pop up on my phone as he made his weekly call home I had to think, this kid has it together.  At least that's what I think of him.  I hope it's what he thinks of himself as well.

See what I mean?  Punk Rock Elvis!

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