Our little town has been undergoing a transformation over the last several years. An art district has been flourishing and revitalizing the historic downtown square, and recently this area hosted a block party in order to celebrate a newly renovated park. May Lee and I were excited to attend, and clearly we weren’t the only ones, as several thousand people came and explored the STEM themed attractions, shopped at the various vendors, and formed long lines at all the food trucks. Since my child is going through a picky eater phase and neither of us enjoys a crowd, we opted to begin our evening at the art studio where May Lee has been taking classes since she was about four years old. We spent over an hour making crafts before deciding to hit the street again.
As we left the building, we could hear that a musician, who happened to be our guitar instructor, was just starting his set. We made our way next door to the newly renovated park and marveled at the transformation as we stood at the entrance scoping out open seats. What once was a vacant and neglected outdoor lot littered with broken glass and other debris had become a clean and inviting space. The previously cracked concrete floor had been repaved and blanketed with a bright green square of astroturf. Low walls bordered the left and right sides of the lawn and created walkways on either side that lead up to a new stage that spanned across the back wall. Overhead, steel beams were lined with festive outdoor lights that created a warm and relaxing glow.
Some seats opened up on one of the walls, and we made our way over and settled in for the show. For over an hour, we enjoyed singing along to the popular cover songs being played, joining in with the crowd to clap along to the beat, and cheering for our favorite songs. Several children ran to the open space in front of the stage and danced and tumbled on the astroturf in variations of somersaults and cartwheels. It summoned memories of when my own child was 3 years old and twirling around in her pineapple sundress to a bluegrass band that played at one of our favorite Florida farmer’s markets. There was also the time around the same age that she performed interesting dance moves right along with the dancing sea lions at Marine World.
Now, she is 8 years old, and rather than running to the front to twirl and dance to the music, she spent the show with her long legs stretched out on top of the wall and her back leaning against my shoulder. She’s growing up, and that really hit home to me as we enjoyed the live music together in this new and grown up way. She has favorite songs now that are not pre-k classics like “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider”,
“Some of you are gonna love this, and the rest of you will want to puke,” the singer declared before launching into a cover of “Old Town Road”. My daughter’s whole face lit up with excitement, and I allowed my jaw to drop to mirror her emotion. I chuckled at the Billy Ray Cyrus induced “Achy, Breaky Heart” flashbacks I was having, but I also relished in my daughter’s delight at hearing one of her favorite songs being played live for the first time in her life. There really is something very highly contagious about sharing live music with your people. When that person is your child, it certainly makes it very difficult to be a music snob.
After the music ended and the party was over, we headed to Sonic for grilled cheese sandwiches and tater tots, since we dared not brave the food truck lines during the event. On our way out, we were able to snag a couple of macarons before they closed down their truck, so we snacked on little blueberry cheesecake delights while we waited for our food. I pulled up the video of “Achy, Breaky Heart” to show my daughter what was coming to my mind every time I heard Billy Ray Cyrus sing on “Old Town Road”. I didn’t expect her to love the song and request that it be added to her playlist so she could listen to it every day, which is exactly what happened.
(That request was met with a hard no, by the way. I lived through “Achy, Breaky Heart” once, and that was enough. She has her own device, so go with God, child.)
Mercifully, our food arrived at that time, and as we sat and ate, I took a moment to really savor this wonderful evening with my daughter. The fact that she is old enough now to enjoy- and allow me to enjoy- an hour and a half of live music is ushering in a new phase of growth and maturity. Being able to stay out a little later every now and then without a total meltdown because she’s tired is a new lease on life for the both of us. It’s a really happy and hopeful thing that we can enjoy a great night out together, and I found myself hoping that this common interest in music could sustain us through the tumultuous teen years and beyond. Perhaps it’s even time to allow myself to begin dreaming about taking her to her first big concert.
When we arrived home, my daughter announced to me that she was tired and going to bed. Not only did she get ready for bed without any prodding from me, she actually got into bed without me having to tell her to do so no less than four hundred times. For once, I was able to be the mother I always dreamed I could be and was able to say sweet, goodnight things to my daughter in all sincerity and not through gritted teeth and thinly veiled frustration produced by the circus that is the typical bedtime routine.
I’m not going to lie, I may struggle a little bit with this new phase of maturity. It’s a little shocking to the system to have such an abrupt change, but I’m determined to allow myself to enjoy every moment of it. Because there is more of this to come, right? If I’m doing this parenting thing well, there should be more milestones like this ahead. At least, this is what I’ve been led to believe by the Great Cloud of Parenting Witnesses that have gone before me and frequently encourage me that “this too shall pass” when I’m about to pull my hair out. I’ve been told that one day I’ll be rewarded for all my effort in raising this small child with an adult child who is responsible and pleasant to spend time with.
So, I’m choosing to see this block party as a foreshadowing of the really lovely adult my child is working on becoming. I’m choosing to believe that this was a small taste of my parenting efforts paying off, and I’m accepting that as encouragement that my less-than-perfect parenting is still producing some good fruit. I’m also renewing my commitment to her music education. This is clearly an avenue by which we will continue to bond, and y’all, I want to enjoy the music (at least some of the time) too!