Years ago, my husband went to the doctor for a checkup. Morose, he told me the doctor said he had 7 percent hearing loss, undoubtedly from music. Concerts, cranking the dial in his car, jamming with his headphones maxed out — all had taken a toll. Seven percent.
He showed me the printout of his measurements, levels and percentages showing results from the battery of tests from his checkup.
“Hearing Loss: 17%” Ba dum bum.
“It says 17 percent,” I giggled. “You heard him wrong!” I said, making no effort to control my laughter.
While I slapped my knee at the irony, he mourned his loss. He was much more surprised than I to learn he was nearly a fifth impaired.
I told my friend this story, yelling loudly, trying to convey it through her earplugs, above the painfully ear-splitting music blasted at us from enormous speakers on the lawn at Cricket Wireless Amphitheater. She and I had taken our tween sons to hear one of their favorite bands, Fall Out Boy. I tried to explain why I keep my purse stocked with earplugs — and therefore had plenty for everyone. We’d stuffed them in our boys’ ears, with little complaint from them.
Amid a sea of college-aged kids, our boys remained close to us, cocking their heads as they tried to identify the smoky aroma wafting through the crowd. We wore our requisite mom uniforms — she in khaki shorts and a strand of beads, me in capris. I cringed as the opening band relied heavily on four-letter words to convey their deep affection for marijuana. The boys turned to us, eyes wide, as they heard uncensored versions of the songs they enjoy on the radio.
We stood in the T-shirt line so the boys could pick out shirts. They scanned their options, and we censored anything with language, blatant drug references, or smoking paraphernalia, which left about three options for them to choose from.
While waiting, we laughed at our dubious parenting choice and the merits of being able to help them process what they’d witnessed. I flat-out patted myself on the back for bringing earplugs.
Our conversation shifted to earplugs. I mentioned that my husband now tries to carry them to shows, but if he forgets them, sometimes you can buy them from a bartender, but wouldn’t it be nice if there were vending machines in music venues with earplugs?
“For moms who take their kids to concerts?” a young man standing in front of us interjected with cheeky amusement.
“Someday, you’ll be 40,” my friend mused.
Yes, I thought. I looked into my standard-issue mom crystal ball.
Someday he’ll be in the kitchen arguing with his future wife. It will go like this:
“Why would you say something like that?” he’ll cry, outraged.
“Why do you care?” his wife will sputter, moderately confused. “Why are you telling me what to do?”
“I just can’t believe you!” he’ll seethe.
She’ll stare at him, baffled by his outburst.
“What do you think I said?” she’ll finally ask, sure there’s been a misunderstanding.
“You said you want to make my mother mad,” he’ll spit.
A grin will cross her face.
“No, I said I want another piece of bread,” she’ll explain. “Get your ears checked.”
(This premonition may, or may not, be based on actual events I’ve experienced.)
Our young boys wore their earplugs, the teal foam insulating their tender eardrums from damage hung out of their ears. The world’s messages seeped through, though.
I can’t keep my kids from the world. In fact, it’s my job to lead them there. But hopefully I can provide them the tools they need — tiny squishy ear plugs, a respect for wrong and right, a discernment to make good — to help them navigate the world unscathed.
Overland Park mom and freelancer Emily Parnell writes alternate weeks.