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Bruce Springsteen Keynote as Parenting Text

In March, Bruce Springsteen gave a pretty terrific keynote address at SXSW. He schooled the audience in Rock and Roll history while singing and talking about the artists who influenced him most. He describes the singer of The Animals as “like your shrunken daddy with a wig on,” and he points out the subjective nature of criticism: “You go, Bruce Springsteen, natural-born poetic genius off the streets of Monmouth County, hardest working New Jerseyian in show business, voice of the common man, future of Rock and Roll!” or “He sucks.”

As a fan, I loved it. But the Boss gives some parenting advice too. Have you ever struggled between optimism and realism when it comes to encouraging your kids? My mom was great at preparing me for the worst. This saved me from disappointment and left me pleasantly surprised whenever things went my way.

Parents are so encouraging and inspiring these days. It’s hard for me to muster up enthusiasm for all the long-shots kids want to try for. Yesterday my 14-year-old son asked, “Mom, could I go to some kind of clown camp this summer?” I mean? I love the idea. I want to encourage creativity and passion but, uh, the clown thing is probably not going to happen. It’s cute when little girls take ballet, but how many of them are going to go prima? And how many garage bands succeed? Not most. Still! I love ballet class and band practice. See? I’m torn.

But that’s OK. Bruce Springsteen gets it. He says, “So, rumble, young musicians, rumble. Open your ears and open your hearts. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and take yourself as seriously as death itself … It keeps you honest. Be able to keep two completely contradictory ideas alive and well inside of your heart and head at all times. If it doesn’t drive you crazy, it will make you strong. And stay hard, stay hungry, and stay alive. And when you walk onstage tonight to bring the noise, treat it like it’s all we have. And then remember, it’s only rock and roll.”

So I’m not going to feel bad for feeling conflicted and I’m going to teach my kids to temper their passion with humility and perspective and always to work hard … probably in a factory somewhere, like Jersey.

Read more from Kacy at Every Day I Write the Book.
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