December is CREATIVE HABITAT month. I’m looking at ways artistic people manage to make fulfilling lives, despite and also because of structures and limitations. Guest blogger Zara Bode shares her story of touring with a kid. You don’t need to be a touring parent to be inspired by the fact that Zara, Stefan, and Desmond are finding ways to sing through life together.
We have a nearly 1 1/2 year old son named Desmond. He’s a folk scene proclaimed instagram star (#dabode) and all around nice engaging little dude. Stefan and I have been fortunate in that we are the first couple in the band to have kids. It’s still a novelty to our mates to have a little person around. We are thankful to them for their flexibility and cheerful nature about the whole procreating thing.
But no-matter the band, no one is going to step in when shit is hitting the fan. So, I have three big tips from my first years of Mama touring
1. Be prepared for very little down time.
If you’re lucky like we are, you have a great band who’s willing to help with fun car seat/road interactive play. But once you’re out of the car, all your focus will be how to entertain, engage, nurture, and feed this child before your next work obligation (load-in, sound check, interviews, set up, breakdown, or teaching New York musicians a chorus right before the show…)
If you have someone coming to watch your child during the performance, see if they can come at soundcheck. That will be a good tester in that you will be able to fulfill your soundcheck obligations, and still be present-ish to both the child and caretaker. Then you have the opportunity to eat dinner all together and get familiar.
2. Tie down ALL your stuff in the van.
My not so fun piece of advice that has been rumbling around my head a lot recently is safety related. A few weeks ago while on tour we were rear ended by a tractor trailer going 30 miles per hour. Everything went everywhere. Glass, gas, crushed vehicles. It was scary as all hell, but the gut-wrenching moment for me was the realization that only the day before had I asked if Desmond could stay with Grandma. He wasn’t there. He wasn’t sitting in his rear-facing car seat in the same place where the windows shattered, and a bass neck lunged forward and hit someone in the head causing a concussion. 17 month old babies are resilient, but they can’t cover their faces or deflect items flying through the air. SO PLEASE TIE DOWN YOUR STUFF. If you do open van touring EVERYTHING should to be tied down. Just a strap or two could save your life. Do it for your own sake, but especially for children in rear facing seats. It all happens so quickly you’d have no time to help or cover anyone. It’s not hard to install a strap. Do it.
3. Follow your gut, and (maybe) give your kid some space
So I don’t end this on a dreary note, my favorite piece of advice was “You dictate what is normal.” This doesn’t mean you aren’t constantly adapting and compromising as a parent, only that you have a say in creating those patterns.
We had Desmond on his first long car rides at around 1 month old, and around 3 months old being held by strangers/friends during concerts each night. This kept us from being too protective, and helped our son be a lenient and friendly infant. I have been told we treat Desmond like a second child, the one that gets to eat food off the floor, and gets a longer leash. I just thought it would boost his immune system and strengthen his sense of self to have the space to explore. Everyone is different, every parent has their own style, all I know is what we have going seems to be working. He’s approaching true toddlerhood now and of course has become more demanding and partial, but is easily soothed which I contribute to the work we did earlier in childhood.
Good luck out there, Mamas and Papas.
Zara Bode (pictured on the left, beside Emily Miller) performs with the Sweetback Sisters (drummer/singer Stefan Amidon is also in the band). It’s an upbeat cowboy country, modern Americana, stellar harmony singing festival of inspiration, and they’ve got a must-see Christmas show.
In the Northeast? Don’t miss the Sweetback Sisters Christmas Sing Along Spectacular. Performances include:
Dec 06, 2016, NYC (lighting of the Madison Sq Park Christmas tree!)
Dec 10, 2016, Randolph, VT (Chandler Center for the Arts
Dec 11, 2016, Oneonta, NY (Bside Ballroom)
Dec 15, 2016, Cambridge, Ma (Oberon Theater)
Dec 16, 2016, Plymouth, Ma (Spire Center for Performing Arts)
Dec 17, 2016, Little Compton, RI (Community Center)
Dec 18, 2016, Brooklyn, NY (The Bellhouse)
Dec 19, 2016, Newburyport, MA (Firehouse Center for the Arts)
Dec 21, 2016, Brattleboro, VT (First Baptist Church)
Dec 23, 2016, Northampton, MA (Academy of Music Kid Matinee and evening show)