This one time, at band camp…

By Mir
July 30, 2011

So Chickadee made it through band camp without incident. I’m not gonna lie, we were pleasantly surprised. It is HOT and GRUELING and there were plenty of texts about who’d passed out and how sick she felt and more than a little angst over the enormity of the task before her. [Hint: Someone spent all of last year as first chair in the band. Guess whose ego was not quite prepared to be last chair despite being 1) the youngest 2) the newest and 3) the only non-high-schooler in her section?]

Now we go to a regular rehearsal schedule and soon—weekly football games. Friday afternoon found Chickadee sporting a stylish farmer tan and the biggest smile we’ve seen in months. After early dismissal she’d gone out to lunch with her section and was basking in the glow of being treated as an equal by the older kids over pizza. “I think I’ve got it,” she confided to me, a little bit proud and mostly amazed. “It got easier. It’s hard but it’s fun.”

And so last night we headed over for the first demonstration of the season, to be followed by a giant picnic of band families. (Apparently the last adhesive required to fully cement the bandie extended family is hot dogs and ketchup.)

The field was closed, for some reason, so we assembled to watch the kids march in the adjacent parking lot. It was 98 degrees in the shade and even hotter on the edge of the blacktop. The director said a few words and then began: Their demonstration consisted of them just standing there, playing one piece, and then showing a few different marching drills (without music), and finally, they did a complete number (both music and formations). And there were a lot of kids and it was REALLY hot and yeah, it wasn’t perfect. I saw a couple of spinning flags hit the ground. I saw some kids bump into each other.

But… on the whole? For only being together for a about a week? They were really, really good.

More than that, I saw Chickadee transformed. The same kid who whines about standing up straight, who trips over dust, who ignores 75% of what we say to her, was flawless. She stood proud and tall, never missed a cue, looked confident and at ease and marched in and out of formations like she’d been doing it her whole life. She was downright GRACEFUL. She looked right at home.

Afterward she ran to us, all smiles, asking how we’d liked it. All was happiness and light until I asked her to introduce me to the girls in her section, and then I got my regular kid back. That was met with rolling eyes and, “God, Mom, that’s just creepy,” and other protestations that made it clear that any attempt to meet any of the kids who are her new BFFs would forever brand her as uncool. I was getting frustrated, insisting that all I wanted was to know who was who, and she was getting frustrated, reminding me that NO ONE ELSE’S PARENTS CARE, and a face-off was imminent.

I was about to remind her that she’s still 13 and we’re still her parents when Otto caught my eye. “I think we just let this one go,” he said, quietly. “It’s okay.” I closed my mouth. We followed her inside, collected her things, didn’t meet any of her friends, and after the requisite family time, bid her farewell as she headed off to a celebratory swim party with the band. Later she came home, damp and tired, bubbling over with stories of trying to teach one of her new friends to swim. “She’s, like, 16 and doesn’t know how. She thought it was really cool I was helping her.”

This one time, at band camp? I think we got a glimpse of things to come. Bittersweet.

(Photo by Otto. Awesomeness by the always-amazing Chickadee.)


  1. liz

    Question: What does a 13-year-old vegetarian eat at a band camp picnic consisting of hot dogs?
    But, still YAY Chickadee!

  2. Navhelowife

    I’m so happy. My oldest did band camp last year but opted not to do band this year, which makes me both sad and joyful. Wishing C many great performances!
    I *think* you know where I am, and if her school is ever coming up this way for a competition, please let me know – I’d love to cheer her on!

  3. MeganM

    My 15 year old is involved in “summer band” It is an extension of her high school band program that includes middle school kids. She is so busy with practice, parades and performances, she might as well still be in school! I Love the pig tails :)

  4. Chuck

    Glad all is going well. People I’ve met in marching band tell me it’s really good exercise as well. But yeah, not wanting to introduce your parents to your band-mates sounds very much like teenage par for the course.

  5. Nelson's Mama

    So glad Chickadee had a great week.

    My youngest did band camp for the first time last week, she did better than I expected too. Didn’t know how she’d handle the heat, but luckily they come in when the heat index hits 105!

  6. meghann @ midgetinvasion

    This band nerd’s heart is swelling with pride. Don’t worry, there are usually things to get really involved (My school had band boosters) and through that you’ll get to know the other kids.

    I’m really happy for Chickadee, being in marching band is almost like a giant fraternity. It doesn’t matter where you go or went to school, once two people find out that they both march(ed) there is this special connection. It’s kind of awesome.

  7. Debbie

    Get involved with the band parent meetings, and go from there. Sign up to help with one or two little things to get your feet wet, then jump in. My first year I worked concessions. The next I did cashiering. Last year I did sewing. This year I’m doing spiritwear, sewing, feeding, and who knows what else as the season progresses LOL!

    My boys pretty much ignore me at the band things. But I’ve noticed that the girls come up to their parents all the time. My husband – who works with the operations crew (those dads who help build and fix things, and help pull equipment on and off the field for performances) longs for the day when our daughter will be able to join so that he’ll have a kid who’ll come up and talk to him during breaks at competitions. :)

    Also, if you get active volunteering yourself, no matter how little or much, the kids will learn that you are her mom and her friends will seek you out to say hi, even if she ignores you. That’s what happens with my boys. Plus, you’ll meet enough parents that way to feel comfortable at performances and practices with friends who are there supporting the kids, just as you are. Band parents are my favorite group to volunteer with!

  8. MomQueenBee

    Not only do band nerds rock, they rock all the way through high school, then make their best friends there in college, then fall in love with the horn section leader and make their mother the happiest woman in the world. Welcome to the best part of high school.

  9. Aubri

    Oh… I love this post! I often say to myself as I read Chickie posts, “My word… she’s ME!” but today, that picture? I mean… she even STANDS like I stood at that age. And… I played the flute too. Crazy.

    But seriously, this post was beautiful. Thank you for sharing. HOORAY CHICKIE!!!

  10. ellbee

    Yay, Chickie! As a longtime colorguard (flag) instructor, I’ve got to hand her huge props for making it through band camp, skin issues and age and all! I’ve had kids flake out during camp for much less. Hopefully someone videoed the performance–when she watches that from the perspective of the end of the season it will blow her mind (and yours!) how far she’s come.

  11. Tenessa

    I so love this! I was a band geek, but my school wasn’t big enough to have a football team, so no official marching band either (although we did straight lines and marched in the yearly Christmas parade downtown). I would have LOVED this, then! YAY, CHICKIE!!

  12. Shannon W.

    Great Post. Being in marching band 8th-12th grade really gave me a home at school. So happy for Chickadee!

  13. Lisa

    My 12yo son, Matt, has done this AWESOME Summer Music School program that our school district puts on every year ever since he was 10. This was his third year. He’s an orchestra guy, plays viola. The program is for students entering 5th-8th grades and it runs from 8:00-1:00 M-F for 3 weeks. The first hour everyone participates in choir; 2nd-4th hours are for electives (ds has done harp every year; this year he also did music theory and composition and then conga drums/marimba). The final hour the students do band or orchestra, depending on which is their primary instrument. The program culminates with a big concert for families on Thursday night, where the students get to show what they’ve learned. Then the final Friday they do an abbreviated version of their concert at a local park. The concert is AMAZING! It just blows me away how much these kids learn in 3 short weeks.
    The first year Matt participated, he came home in tears after the first day. He considered himself to be a pretty good violist and the music was SO HARD. Fortunately, his regular, school-year orchestra teacher is involved in the program and had seen what a hard time he’d had that first day. She called him that night and talked him into coming back. She explained that the music *had* to be somewhat challenging for the older kids and that he’d see…he’d learn it all in time for the concert and he would be so proud of himself by the time the school was over. It was true. By the end, he loved the experience he’d had and he’s looked forward to it every year since.
    Another thing I love about this program is that there are lots of high school students who volunteer and do one-on-ones with the youngsters. Our district requires a certain number of community service hours as part of their graduation requirements, so I’m already set on Matt do that when he’s in high school.
    All this is a way of saying, band camp? AWESOME!

  14. Karenp

    Yay Chickie! But where are the boy flutists? Ha, ha. My flutist was just chosen as one of the top 20 you tube partners. See where you can go if you play the flute!

  15. zudie

    I guess it’s local culture if you are “wanted” as a parent or not. My oldest is in a marching band program and she would kill me if I ignored her whenever I come over.
    As for meeting her friends: they already rush over to meet me, without asking. But that is truly more the culture here (I’m deeper South than you are). I remember from my childhood that I wanted my parents as far away as possible. But here they want me all around as much as possible and are disappointed that I don’t have the time to chaperone all their school fields trips. And I’m not even their biological mama…

  16. Carolyn

    LOVE marching band. it is the best thing that every happened to my now 15 year old son. He plays the tuba and plans to audition for drum major next year!!

  17. Mel

    Love, love, love marching band. My oldest is off to play snare for a BIG university in the fall and his sister will play clarinet for the high school.

    I second Debbie — get involved with the boosters. I’m “president” (snort!) and am up late putting together volunteer schedules for our two-week camp that begins Monday. I’ve made the best friends, and know the kids despite my own child’s protestations. I love it.

  18. Varda (SquashedMom)

    How wonderful! My favorite part? Is this line: “It got easier. It’s hard but it’s fun.” That is an amazing lesson to learn, sticking with a hard thing until it gets easier and becomes fun. If she can keep that going, the world is her oyster…. or whatever the vegetation version of that is. You go, Chickie!

  19. Stacy

    Band was the only thing that kept me sane in high school. And, I met my husband in band (but we didn’t get married for another 17 years). I hope she sticks with it and loves it the entire time.

  20. Brigitte

    Aw, looking more grown-up than ever!

    Though I did become distracted at the thought of being forced to attend weekly football games. :-o

  21. Ladybug Crossing

    Ahh… welcome to the world of Marching Band! We start up next weekend with band camp away from home — parents do the cooking and the chaperoning. The kids do the marching. Your weekends from now until November are not your own, but it’s all worth it! I’ve got 2 more years – some days it seems like an eternity and other days it seems too short!

  22. Cheryl M.

    Too awesome for Chickie! I totally hope my little guys get into the marching band when they’re older…I was in the colorguard (flags & wooden guns) in high school and it was amazing! Just be prepared for competitions and prizes that include trips. My HS band was the best in New England back in the day, and we got to go to Virginia for the Apple Blossom Festival (and got to do a parade and salute then-President Ronald Reagan), and we got to go to Texas for the Cottonbowl. I had the time of my life!

  23. Sheila

    Yesterday’s post was all about finding the Quiet and today was about Joyful Noise. This parenting gig really isn’t for wimps (or the inflexible), is it?

  24. Becky

    I will second becoming involved as a band mom. When I marched in high school the band moms became my second mothers and they weren’t even the moms of my close friends. Yes, we even requested certain moms on our bus for bus trips. I am so happy that C survived band camp and that she is involved in (in my opinion) one of the best, most fun, high school activities early! Congrats and I can’t wait to see pictures of their half time show!

  25. Daisy

    Ah, so Chickie is a flutist! I was in another section altogether in high school and college – I played tuba. My soon-to-be husband wondered why I had so many male friends. Ahem.

  26. Jules

    I knew she could do it! If you want to meet her friends in the band and who is in her section, chaperone. It’s grueling at times, but your child sees you there and interested and the other kids see you there and interested. I love it.

    I’m so glad she stuck it out!

  27. addy

    Band was our lifeline in high school. Built-in network of friends and support system. Years of competions, following bus – Not cool for MOM to be on bus – whatever! First chair clainet then Drum Major and then it was over….. :( Still miss it sometimes. The cadence at the local football games get me. right. here…

  28. Annie

    Good on Otto & Chicadee ! My biggest regret is never having been a band geek.

  29. elz

    Go Chickadee! I vividly remember dance camp (in Texas in the SUMMER). Holy Hell, that was hot. We had to practice most of the day with the band to go over cues and things. So glad that is behind me. Now to get my children interested only in air conditioned activities…

  30. Laura

    Aw, I”m so proud of her! When I was in band, the parents everybody knew and loved were the parents who chaperoned our band trips and loved us in spite of our rotten behavior. It seems like there were always the same sets of long-suffering parents around, doing the heavy lifting and dirty work. I know there will be ways for you to get involved, you and Chickadee can politely ignore each other, and you can be a hit with all the other kids.

  31. Erika

    I remember being in Chickadee’s shoes– three fellow 8th grade clarinet players and I were selected to join the high school symphonic band. We were all very put out that we were the last four chairs. (Never mind that there were two high school bands– concert band and symphonic band, and symphonic were the ones who got to go to competitions and perform at various around-town functions– we were still last and had the nerve to be insulted by it!) On the other hand, being in the symphonic band while we were still eighth graders meant that once we were in 9th grade, we got to go straight into symphonic band (9th graders were usually required to take concert band first), AND we ended up being the FIRST four chairs.
    Also, I’m pretty sure I would have died (in teenage, overly-dramatic fashion) if my mother had made me introduce her to all those “super-cool,” “way more mature,” high school kids when I was 13, too!

  32. Jenn

    Best decision ever Chickie. . .

    I was a very smartie pants kiddo myself and marching in the high school band taught me so much about working within a team, leadership and pushing myself to the limit. It gave me more confidence than anything else I did in high school.

    Band nerds rock.

  33. Aimee

    I’m with Meghann — I’m a band geek too, and it warms my heart that Chickadee is (A) in the band; (B) loving it so much; and (C) playing the flute, which was my instrument too!

    My high school had the Band Parents, and everybody knew everybody before long. I don’t know that I never introduced my mom to most of the kids in the band, but she knew just about everyone by name as a result of knowing all the parents.

  34. christine

    I was such a shy kid as well, and marching band helped to bring me out of my shell. I was in color guard, though. I remember those days of marching on black top in the heat, it was horrible!

    I’m so glad she’s enjoying herself!

  35. Stephanie

    goosebumps! i LOVE watching my daugher, L, (who, by coincidence is 13) blossom like this. the hard part is the fact that she’s always been my shadow, my buddy… and i can see and feel her pulling away a little at a time (as she should!)… but i’m still her touchstone… and i hope it lasts forever. :)

  36. TC

    And with all that sun and the swimming in non-salt pools and stuff? How’s the rash?

  37. Wendy

    This brings back so many memories it’s unbelievable. All of my best HS memories are cemented in a firm foundation around marching band. Go Chickee! Go!

  38. meredith

    High-school band was the best time of my life as a student. Even better than a big college marching band I was in. I hope she keeps on having the time of her life.

  39. Melanie

    As another band geek, I have to chime in here. I’m so excited for her. I LOVED marching band. I agree with meghann (#6.) It is a giant fraternity. Welcome to the family, Chickadee!!

  40. Jen

    I’m a band geek from way back and I think it is the NUMBER ONE BEST THING for a kid to be involved in. There are no bench warmers in band. None. I know that thrill and pride she’s feeling; I’ve felt it myself and have seen my students with it. Mir, if she sticks with it and I think she will, you will see her blossom into one hell of a confident kid who knows herself.
    And my boys are taking up instruments this fall. The end. ;)

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