Pat Clark

Listen up, kids: Do as I say, not as I do

Ah, those wonderful do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do parental moments. Or, if you must be all literal about it, hypocritical angst.

But is it really hypocritical if your child doesn’t know you did the thing you tell him not to do? Go listen to a tree fall in the woods (which is to say, of course it is).

I blame my most recent parenting angst moment on the Foo Fighters, of course. Who else?

And last week’s cooler temperatures. And a really good mood.

I was cruising west on Pelandale Avenue as the sun was just setting late last week, my favorite phone-playlist plugged into the stereo, the windows rolled down and the cool wind rushing into my car as the Foo Fighters’ “Learn to Fly” popped up on the song list.

Obviously, I cranked up the volume. High. Really high.

OK, obnoxiously, immaturely, ridiculously high.

In my defense, there weren’t many cars around on that stretch of Pelandale, where the legal speed limit is a glorious 50 mph and my favorite party game is to see if I can run the gamut of green lights with the car’s cruise control set at 51. So the loud music was almost like the aforementioned tree in the woods – only I knew how loud it was crashing.

Mostly. I mean the road wasn’t desolate or anything.

But all the elements converged – wind, speed, setting sun, the Foos helping me learn to fly – to turn the clock back just far enough for me to not care about anything but jamming in the car like a rowdy teenager.

Oh, I was well aware that my insides were going to quiver like warm Jell-O as soon as I got out of the car from the pounding bass – this wasn’t even close to my first time at the loud-rock rodeo. There might even be a headache in store, perhaps a stiff neck in the morning from the rampant head bobbing.

I didn’t care. In fact, I hit the stereo repeat button and did it again. And again.

And, yes, again.

It put me in that shame-on-me, immature kind of mood where if someone pulled next to me at a stoplight and gave me the stink eye for the music being too loud, I probably would have smiled and cranked it up just a little higher. No, I’m not proud of this – but it still was awesome.

I highly recommend it.

Never mind that halfway to Dale Road, I remembered a conversation I’d had with my son and one of his friends just a couple of days earlier about a “Today” show segment that had aired about young people who were suffering hearing loss because of too-loud music. The report focused on earbuds and the irreparable damage cranking up the music directly into your brain can cause.

While I wasn’t wearing earbuds, it was pretty much the same thing, given the crazy-loud volume inside the car.

Hello, Mama Hypocrite.

I thought about it for about a split second, then went back to doing my best behind-the-wheel Taylor Hawkins-at-the-kit air drumming impression.

The fact is, I know the damage loud music can do because I already suffer its effects, and it really is a serious concern. My hearing clearly has been harmed thanks to many teen and 20-something years filled with daily doses of the same kind of music mood I was in that evening.

The result is that if anyone tries to talk to me while a faucet is running or the washing machine is in the midst of a load, or pretty much any other background noise is going, they sound like every adult in a Charlie Brown cartoon: “Wah-wah-wah-womp-wah-wah.”

My son knows this all too well (although I remain consistently confounded by the fact that he speaks at exactly the same volume even after I tell him I can’t hear what he’s saying, as if I’m suddenly and miraculously going to be able to hear him crystal clear for no logical reason: See Einstein’s definition of insanity).

So, yes, I’d tried to warn my son and his buddy about not listening to music too loud just a couple of days before my own flagrant violation of the same. And, yes, I thought about the hypocrisy for just that split second. Because I was on a rock ’n’ roll high, the weather was cool, the evening was mine.

Later, I drove back eastbound all the way home doing exactly the same thing.

When I got home, my son was at the kitchen table doing homework, his earbuds firmly planted in his head. My insides were quivering again like warm Jell-O from the second round of rock. I smiled and said hi, then asked him if he had the volume on his music down at a safe level.

Because, really, the kid wasn’t in the car to hear it when those bass-line-busted trees went crashing down.

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