Earlier this evening, I had to chauffeur my son and two of his friends all over the county. And no, I'm not exaggerating. I picked them up at one kid's house, took them to the other kid's house, so he could get a change of clothes, swung back by my house, so my kid could get a change of clothes, ran through Micky D's because all that riding around makes a young man hungry, and then took them to a fourth kid's house where I happily left them.
I was tempted to be aggravated by the whole ordeal. It was a lot of driving, and gas ain't cheap, my friends. And HELLO! American Idol was on. If not for DVR, their sorry butts would have been stuck. Even so, I groused. Why me? The other kids have moms and dads. Why am I always the sucker that says yes? Why do these kids not have their licenses yet? Why? Why? Why?
Because I was aggravated, I said no when my son asked if he could drive. He has his permit and is a week away from his road test. Mostly, I say yes because I want to give him all the experience I can before I turn him loose without me. But I was aggravated. And there were two other boys in the car. A teenage boy's IQ drops as the number of them in an enclosed space increases. So I stayed behind the wheel.
This, of course, aggravated my son, so he hooked his iPod up to the stereo and cranked it. My sons and I have an agreement when it comes to their music. I will listen to any song once, but if my not-so-delicate sensibilities are upset, then it goes away and does not grace my stereo again. My dear sweet boy, looking to impress his friends or pick a fight or just be an annoying punk, selected the foulest, most misogynistic song on his iPod.
The rapper waxed lyrical about getting wasted at the club with his bitches and ho's (The spelling of this word stumped me. It's not possessive, but hos just looks wrong.), and I'm pretty sure he managed to drop the F-bomb at least every third word. I turned wordlessly to my son because speaking would have been futile over the deafening filth spewing from my speakers and gave him a cold stare.
I read his lips, but didn't answer. My cold stare is pretty frigid, so he turned down the noise.
"Really? You like Eminem, and he cusses."
"It's not the profanity that offends me. It's the total lack of originality."
I could see his friends' faces in the rearview mirror. They had been snickering quietly, hoping to see mother-son drama I guess, but they stopped laughing and listened.
"Profanity can serve a useful purpose in a story or a song, but to serve a purpose, it has to be used purposefully. This guy uses the F-bomb because it's all he's got. He's got no story, no message other than 'Oooooo...I'm awesome. I get drunk and high and treat women like crap. Go me.' Total lack of originality, no creativity, no artistry, and yes, I find that offensive. At least Eminem is saying something."
My son was defensive. "There are plenty of rap songs with a real message."
"I know, but this isn't one of them, and since you all like it, I have to question your taste in music altogether. Clearly, you'll accept any stupid lyric if there is an interesting beat behind it."
Yeah, yeah. I know. I've loved many a stupid song over the years. Some of my favorite Aerosmith songs are completely inane, but I didn't tell them that. My son had picked a fight, and I was giving him one.
The three of them went to their iPods to gather evidence that rap had meaningful social value. I had already agreed that it did, but I had dissed their song, so they felt the need to redeem a whole genre. They played several current songs, including Lupe Fiasco's "The Show Goes on." I like that one, and I told them so.
Then one of the boys in the back said, "Oh Wait! This one is awesome!"
I recognized the opening riff immediately. "It's Tupac. Changes. And yes, it's good."
"You know Tupac?"
"I open my poetry unit with Tupac."
My son piped up, "Tupac is cool, but Biggie's better."
So we listened to Biggie. The volume was back at a reasonable level, and the car was otherwise quiet.
When it was over, my son said, "Now that's real."
I grinned at him. "You do realize you're a middle class white kid living in a small town? How real can it be?"
"It was real for him."
Hard to argue with that logic. "Yeah, I guess it was."
At that point, the boys declared themselves vindicated. Their musical sensibilities didn't totally suck. My son surprised me with some old school Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, and the conversation turned to other things.
When we finally reached our destination, I realized I wasn't aggravated anymore. In one short week, assuming he passes, my son will no longer need me to chauffeur him hither and yon. While a part of me is thrilled about that, I'm a little sad as well. I'm gaining freedom, but I'm losing something more precious, time spent with my son.