Teaching the Little Fish to swim

Bleh. I missed my usual target of at least one blog post per month with the lockdown. I would love to say that my online language classes are progressing well, I’ve done about 800 pages of my historical novel, and I’ve taken my cooking repertoire to new heights. But that would all be complete horseshit. Like many others, I’ve reached new lows in terms of engagement and output. Running has been sporadic. Drinking has gone up. Some days it feels like my phone is surgically attached to my hand. I actually – I feel dirty saying this – watched all episodes of a TV series “Gangs of London” (absolute rubbish). I can’t remember the last time I properly read a book. The “home schooling” powerpoint presentations sent out by the teacher every Monday remain unopened. Every day that clock on the oven slows down, seems to last an eternity.

Spending so much uncomfortable lockdown time with the kids has given them an insight into my world too. Whenever things start to reach a boiling point – say, about once an hour – I have to unplug myself from the tension before I either do or say something I regret. Music is and always has been a great escape. I find that picking up a few records, making some transitions, and turning the volume up on the speakers to drown out the whining, is a good tonic to refresh and reset myself.

My older kid is old and smart enough by now to recognise this behaviour for what it is. Recently he’s started remarking to me “all you like is beer and records”. I retort with “yeah and what’s your point mate?” which probably won’t win me many points in the Attachment Parenting stakes. However, once the CDJ is fired up, he’s pulling a chair over and wants to do spinbacks, play with the pitch, reverse, and has even mastered the loop function, with a basic understanding of how many bars it samples. I’m quite impressed with this progress, given that it took me a long time to even grasp that there was a USB port in the top left corner.

It got me thinking back to about 3 years previously when we went to a “Big Fish Little Fish” event in Hangar off Mare Street. I hadn’t connected the dots when we bought the tickets. I had been in the same venue before, with a different name, to see Joy Orbison play an all-night set in near-complete darkness in the basement. You could barely see your hand in front of your face. It certainly made for an interesting evening. At one point a separated friend who had been absent for at least two hours rejoined us. We thought he had gone home. No, no, he said, I was dancing about four or five metres away from you, but I couldn’t see you, and just assumed you had gone home too.

We went down the ramp for the LFBF event, collected our UV bracelets, and were met with a wall of child noise and fluoro colour, soundtracked by excessively loud techno in the 140bpm range. My older kid pretty much had a sensory overload meltdown within the first half an hour, and who could blame him? Within about fifteen minutes I was searching around for a chill out area myself. I guess the reality of being a parent, and trying to mix two portions of my life that had never previously interacted before, was exhausting rather than exhilirating. The basement and the techno, at 2:30 in the afternoon rather than in the morning, were just unsuited to my mind for getting the kids active and involved with the music.

I was never brought to festivals when I was a kid. My parents weren’t cool types, they had kids early and then settled down. I’m not even sure if either have ever been to a festival. Their nights out tended to be either drinks with neighbourhood friends down the local pub; or drinks with friends in their neighbourhood homes. In my early twenties, I recall seeing parents camping with their offspring at festivals, and thinking “you fucking losers” or words to that effect. Can’t you get a babysitter? And there are dirty stop outs crushing pills with a pestle and mortar, and snorting them off the back of their hand at the campfire just over there. Do you want your kids seeing that?

So I guess there’s a part of me that considers the world of raves and festivals as ADULTS ONLY and bringing my kids along to these sort of things would be a denial of reality to myself. I love them and all, but part of me regrets the change that they brought. The responsibility, the lack of spontaneity, the nights in, the lack of an off switch for them on a weekend morning. I love going out and COMPLETELY LOSING MYSELF for hours, talking shit to random people, not having a plan about where I might end up, and not being overly concerned about the following day. You just can not do this with children. Also, let’s be brutally honest here, staying up all night dancing tends to involve some Bad Things, and I really would prefer if my kids did not follow the same path I have with this.

And yet… what about all the fun that I have had? What about the great music and memories? (hazy as they might be). How many friends have I made through these experiences? Yes many have come and gone but that is no different to other routes of acquisition. If I do genuinely derive joy from doing basement raves and festivals, why not show that happy side to the kids? They don’t live in a bubble, they’re just being schooled in one, so eventually they’ll grow up and be in the same place where I was/am now. Part of me wants my autonomy and privacy back, and keeping the kids in a separate drawer is a way of partially or temporarily resolving this. But then another part of me – the part that’s trying to be a decent parent – wants them to be happy and have fun. The thought of dragging them to a festival fills me with dread. I would have to vet the next kid-rave event, to make sure it was outdoors and that the music was tolerable. But if they’re there, maybe they’ll see parts of what makes these things so fun, and understand why I want to escape into it so much.

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