Friday, September 30, 2016

Leave the Gun, Take the Euphonium

*As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a...

**Band Mom.

You thought I was going to say gangster, right? Well, we do carry a lot of large black cases, but they usually contain instruments and not machine guns. Usually.

I think it started back in high school when I visited the concession stand during half-time and saw all the band parents busily buzzing around filling orders and taking money. They laughed and chatted and seemed to be having a great time even though they were manning the windows at a furious pace. There was a sense of community and camaraderie about them that was very appealing.

Fast-forward about 15 years to the day my older son came home from 6th grade and announced he was in Band class. He had never been musically inclined, so I didn't think much of it at the time.

Fast-forward 5 more years and not only is he an accomplished trumpet player, but he's also Brass Captain and Band Captain.

I am fully immersed in my role as Band Mom and I have the t-shirts to prove it.
I'm not proud or anything...

As an experienced Band Mom, I have learned a lot throughout the years and I feel it is my duty to inform those new to the ranks. There are things that will always be true no matter where you live or how big or small your band may be. 

1. You are everyone's mom.
     From the moment the music store rep hands you that big black case and says, "Congratulations, it's a saxophone," you are no longer just Johnny or Suzie's mom. You are every band student's mom. This goes double if you are a Band Booster and triple if you are a Band Booster officer. You will not only see to the needs of your child, but every kid in the bus or on the field. You will find yourself holding someone's piccolo or flag or flaming baton while they run to the restroom. You will bring an extra pair of long, black socks because someone always forgets theirs. You will walk the stands asking if anyone needs water. And when your child comes to you and asks you to spot a friend some cash for lunch because he or she doesn't have enough, you'll do it without a second thought. Because these are your kids and that's what moms do. Besides, you know that kid can't possibly lug that tuba around the field on an empty stomach.

2. You will never have another free Saturday.
     Forget sleeping in on the weekend if you are a Band Mom. At least through marching season. From September until Christmas break, Saturdays will be filled with competitions, sectionals, Band Days, and parades. Just mark Saturdays off your schedule. Tell your friends in advance that you cannot make it to weddings, birthday parties, reunions, etc. because you'll be tagging along after your child with a bag full of safety pins, fresh socks and water bottles.
"Sorry I can't help you move. My kid is marching in the Sweet Potato Parade."

3. You will have to be prepared for any weather condition on competition days.
     It doesn't matter if the weather man said it's going to be clear and sunny. At the competition site it will be one of three things: blazing hot, freezing cold or pouring rain. Here in the South, it's likely to be all three in one day. On competition days it's highly advisable to bring sunscreen, a rain jacket and a fur-lined parka because, as Forrest Gump said, "You never know what you're gonna get." There will never be a nice, sunny clear day for Band Competition. The Band gods will not allow it. It's part of the testament of the instrumentalists to be able to march on foot-searing AstroTurf, slog through ankle deep mud, or crunch over frozen tundra. And you as a Band Mom will sit on bum-scorching or tush-freezing or seat-soaking bleachers to watch all of this take place.

4. You will learn to refrain from shouting at all the people talking through the half-time show.
     It never fails that some former football star will be seated near you and will spend all of half-time recounting his glory days with the team. It doesn't matter that your kid is totally rocking his trumpet solo. Jimbo simply has to loudly regale everyone in the stands with the story of his game-winning Pick 6 or of how the team was totally cheated out of the state championship win by crooked game officials. You may be tempted to hurl a music stand at him, but don't do that. It's highly frowned upon. And yelling at him to shut his pie-hole probably won't help either. 
"I've had to watch your kid roll all over the ground for almost two hours. You can watch mine for 30 seconds!!!"

Instead of getting into an ugly confrontation, just do your best to ignore the idiot who peaked in high school. Take comfort in knowing that competition day is coming and for the most part, other Band Moms are gracious in regards to paying attention and giving respect to whoever is on the field. You can bask in the glow of your child's sweet solo while the sun scorches the hair off your head, your nose freezes off, you get soaked through to your bones, or all three. 

5. You wouldn't change a thing.
     When those Band babies take the field and horns are blaring and flags are flying and batons are twirling, it becomes clear that it's all worth it. Every moment. Every expense. Every long drive to this game or that parade. The smiles under those plumed hats are worth it. They know the value of what they are doing. They're learning more than how to play instruments. They are learning how to work and live together and cooperate on a large scale. And they know they are much more than Band members. Even more than friends. They are family. And as Michael Corleone's mother said, "...You can never lose your family."

*One of the first lines from the movie Goodfellas, in case you were wondering.
**I use the term Band Mom, but this could be Band Dad, Band Grandparent, Step-parent, etc. They're all equally important!