Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Kids Are Alright!

Although I find the idea of "graduating" from Grade Eight faintly ridiculous, and I'm reasonably certain I had no such ceremony of my own at the age of thirteen, my oldest stepson had his "graduation" today. Hair done, new clothes, cards with money in them - it's like Christmas, only with more duties and ceremonies. Thankfully, there were only two Grade Eight classes at Glen Cairn, and as such the ceremony did not drag on and on like my OAC ceremony did. (At my high school grad, we got to write down the awards we had received and the scholarships we had obtained, so they could be announced when we grabbed our diplomas. A classmate of mine - I believe it was Nick Protti, but I really can't remember, it may even have been me - wrote down that he had received the Montgomery Burns Award For Outstanding Achievement In The Field Of Excellence. The lady reading the names was so out of it and bored herself that she didn't catch it, and read it over the microphone. And the crowd that was waiting through the ceremony didn't catch it either. If it was Nick, I was the only one that laughed. If it was me, he was the only one that laughed. God, I can't remember high school any more!)

But the ceremony DID drag on. And on. And on. It started with everyone standing for O Canada. I got excited, because I felt like a hockey game might break out. Or at least basketball. We WERE in the gym. But it didn't. Teachers spoke. And then other teachers. Roy MacGregor of the Globe and Mail was the guest keynote speaker. He was OK. And then the kids, one by one, pausing for the photos at the front. Then the custodian and his son performed "Ahead By a Century". Then they did "Pride And Joy". Then John Lennon's "Imagine". It was still better than Our Lady Peace. Marginally. Then it was awards time. Apparently, there must be some school policy where every year, at least thirty percent of the "graduating" class gets an award. And then more teachers talking. And then a valedictorian speech, followed by a slide show set to music, followed by closing remarks and a procession of the kids out of the gym.

All in all, a long ceremony, but I guess halfway important in the lives of thirteen year olds. I saw some of the girls dressed up like they were going to their own wedding. Some were even wearing - I'm serious here - tiaras. Ours was wearing nice pants, a T-shirt, and an untucked shirt with a collar. At least he looked comfortable. And at least he didn't seem to be taking this whole thing terribly seriously. In fact, I believe his "graduation" was only the second-most momentous occasion in his young life this week. The first being when he finally defeated the devil and beat Guitar Hero III on the expert setting. As soon as he did so, he turned to me and said - "will that make it onto your blog?" And I said it would. And so it has. Way to go kid, you're a rock star! On video games. But he certainly seemed prouder of that achievement than he was of his passing Grade Eight, and rightly so. I still haven't beaten the medium setting. That game is tough!

On the way out, we picked up a self-portrait the kids had done before leaving school. His was pretty good - it actually looked like him. Beside each self-portrait was a note, with a quote written on it. The kids had chosen their own quotes to describe themselves. (I saw one kid had chosen a quote from Kurt Vonnegut, which I found intriguing.) And my stepson had chosen one that made me so very happy. Truly the rock star, or maybe just the Guitar Hero afficionado, he had chosen a quote from The Seeker by The Who. It turns out I've taught him something useful, even if it's only one thing.

Also a rock star is my other stepson. Right after the older one's graduation ceremony, we zipped over to the younger one's school to get his report card and to see him in the Air Bands show his school was putting on. We sat through Britney Spears songs, Hannah Montana songs, Simple Plan, and many, many tunes from High School Musical. Well, it seemed like many. It may only have been two. All with varying degrees of success. Some breakdancing kids had a pretty solid amount of energy during a High School Musical jam. One kid (playing the singer) had a terrific stage presence during the Simple Plan tune, despite the fact that the speakers were cutting in and out and the rest of his crew seemed a little miffed about whether they should continue or not.

And then our kid came out with his band mates. He had brought his little guitar from his Dad's house, and he was going to be the guitar player while the other boys held center stage. But it was not to be. I'd like to think it's my influence, with my substantial classic rock DVD library, that informed his moves. Perhaps his Dad worked long hours teaching him moves. But I think it is much more likely that, once again, Guitar Hero was responsible for the incredible stage presence exuded by this young man. Right away, although he was to the back of the stage, he was the focal point of his whole Air Band. Right away, he looked fantastic. He looked like he belonged on the stage. He threw in every classic guitar move with a complete lack of self consciousness. The Angus Young hop. The Hendrix up beside the head move. The Slash guitar-straight-up-in-the-air manouever. Even a Woody Guthrie-style machine gun guitar action, and a contemptuous Eddie Van Halen shrug. Had I known he was going to be playing in this show, I would have brought him his violin bow, so he could bust out the Jimmy Page action in the middle of the set.

And all without a trace of self-awareness. Although it's air guitar, in an air band, this amazing kid moved around the stage as though the music itself was propelling his movements. I am quite serious, and it's not just blind pride talking here, when I say that I have never seen an eight-year-old look so comfortable in front of a crowd of people, and so perfectly suited to the stage. If only he would get interested enough and study hard enough to learn to play an instrument well, he'd have a career for himself right fast.

I tell you folks, these kids are rock stars. Rock stars without instruments. But for kids this age, air guitar and Guitar Hero are about the same as the real thing. It's now my fondest hope that they get into the real thing and start learning, so they can form their own band. And then I can retire, and become that stage-step-parent everyone complains about. The older one already plays the bass at school. I guess I'll have to teach my girlfriend the drums.

1 comment:

  1. Good for you Eric,it sounds like you have a great relationship with the kid(s),i'm proud of you.
    For a step father,it sounds like you've made a friend as well ,your a better step father,than most Blood Fathers,by the sound of it.
    You can be my Daddy Anytime,,,
    You Bet,,you put in the effort,,the kids will be,,"All Right".