Attention, Teachers: If My Son Seems Tired Tomorrow, It’s Probably Because of Pearl Jam

pearl-jam-jeff-vrabel-eddie-vedderIsland Packet — Soooo everyone here would take their 10-year-olds to a Wednesday night rock concert in a far-away city, right? That’s an acceptable parenting decision? Because I kinda sorta did this, and the response so far seems to be evenly split between “He’ll remember it his whole life” and “You are a negligent monster and we’re kicking you off the PTO.”

I agree with them both, because I started out the night with a fifth-grader whom I wanted to expose to new experiences, but left the show carrying my sleepy baby because he fell stone-cold asleep in an arena chair.

There I was last night with my son at a Pearl Jam concert, a good two hours away from his night-night books, bed and the school he was required to attend at 7:40 a.m. the next morning. And there he was, sound asleep, curled up in the chair like a precious little angel, albeit one surrounded by guys carrying 60-ounce beers and shout-singing lyrics from college. Given the chance, the kid will tuck himself into bed under a bundle of blankets and stuffed bears and read Percy Jackson books until 11:30 each night, but take him to a concert and it’s “Ohhh I’m sleepy at 9:30, did you bring a pillow?”



(OK, fine, I’m exaggerating for comic effect. Pearl Jam fans are aging right along with the band, and the barista at a coffee shop I frequent in the morning mentioned that Pearl Jam was her “dad’s favorite band,” which naturally caused me to fly into a brief rage before sobbing into my salted caramel mocha.)

But we brought our son to the show anyway, because of the following reasons:

  1. We’re so awesome.
  2. See No. 1. Repeat 100 times.
  3. The Friday night show was like way farther away.
  4. I mean, maybe I was losing my grip on the glistening fragile threads of my youth and the idealized notion that rock’n’roll can change the world, on the same day I paid my vehicle tax and flood insurance.
  5. Because sometimes you hold onto hope that breaking a kid’s pattern, shattering it for something fleeting and ephemeral, breaking his routine of homework and finding his cleats and eating fruit and packing lunches and reading dragon adventure books might trigger some little switch in their brain, some little red button, the one that every kid and every person has, the button that says this is what I should be doing, this is what life is for, this is my calling, my interest, my moment that throws the track switch from one course to another, and take someone’s life from wherever it was originally intended to go into another place, and maybe that’s a glowing place and maybe it’s a terrible idea, but it’s worth a shot, and anyway he can sleep on a Thursday.




As it turns out, though, the band was in marathon spirits, and the show ended up being three-plus hours, something like 32 songs, the last five or six we missed because of the, you know, creeping guilt. I scooped him out of his little chair-bundle, nodded to all the people in the rows behind us who were definitely not texting friends about the negligent monsters at the concert or anything, and carried him out. But we stopped halfway, and I spent half of “Black” standing in the tunnels holding my 80-pound 10-year-old son, whose head was tucked into my shoulder. Naturally I was swaying, because, you know, music has beats, and also when you are holding a child, you revert to that innate, genetic comforting movement thing.


Related, sort of


Anyway, there’s me, holding Jake, listening to a song that came out when I was a sophomore in high school while he drooled on my shoulder. And during the course of the song, something weird happened: All these guys came by to give Jake a fist-bump, these half-wasted bros stopping to put up a hand like, “DUDE! You’re awesome. Gimme some!” And there’s my son, head mostly on my shoulder, 75 percent asleep, wondering who these people were, and why they are giving him high-fives, and giving them fist-pounds back anyway. He rocks, even in his sleep.





About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

15 responses to “Attention, Teachers: If My Son Seems Tired Tomorrow, It’s Probably Because of Pearl Jam

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