Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Moms (Open Mic) Night Out

What did you do for Mother's Day? When Jim asked me how I wanted to celebrate the day, I took it as a round tuit to do something I've been meaning to experience for awhile: Open Mic Night at the nearby E Street Cafe. Rallying the troops for such an off-beat adventure on a Sunday night is ordinarily difficult; on Mother's Day it was a shoo-in. Jim was thrilled to get off so easy. My wish was his command.

One thing you must know in advance:

Compliments of his new school, Reid has a thorough and effective Behavior Intervention Plan. One of the replacement behaviors they have taught him is to "move to a quiet area" (to replace throwing a shoe, running for a plate glass window, or biting your neighbor). Handy skill, well worth teaching. They've identified the antecedents to each of his maladaptive behaviors and itemized them for the benefit of all. During calm moments, Reid recites, writes, and is otherwise drilled on the five occurrences that warrant "moving to a quiet area" to pre-empt the meltdowns. The goal being for Reid to internalize these explicit triggers to his own agitation, take a minute away, and self-regulate eventually without even a prompt from the teacher. The plan is scientific, genius, and strategically comprehensive. His particular five reasons to move to a quiet area, which are committed to memory:

1. feeling silly

2. work is hard

3. others are loud

4. difficulty concentrating

5. difficulty communicating

I had several motives for getting to the Open Mic Night. Re-living my college days was not one of them--although that was a perk. (The vibe was reminiscent of The Rathskeller at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Student Union.) Rather, it seemed to be a relatively low frills, low cost night out for the whole family (ie. engaging everyone's interest). In addition, I am currently on the look-out for places to take Reid and his fellow Kingsmen band members to socialize (move beyond bowling), expose them to other performers, and scout out possible performance venues. Before I invited all four of the teens, I figured I better see whether censorship would be required.

We had a relaxed, lovely family "date" for less than $20 in just over an hour. No dirty jokes were delivered. Two guys who looked like twins in white t-shirts and jeans (note to self: this is what cool guys wear) played original, acoustic songs they'd written in the style of Jack Johnson or James Taylor. Reid enjoyed them, adding a little percussion by beating on our belly bar table and the one next to us. Although we tried to discourage him from getting up and actually dancing, once we received the warm smile from a 20-something, female patron bored with her computer, we relaxed into the scene. Most folks were engaged primarily with their laptops. The poor JT-wannabes were providing ambience at most. Reid was, in fact, flattering them with his rapt attention and adding to the entertainment value.

The third contestant was "Big Eddie." The cafe owner introduced him awkwardly, "Do you really want me to call you, Big Eddie?" Eddie was merely paunchy, a 70's boomer with an electric guitar and rhythm track to back him up.

He gave a shout out to Reid having eyeballed him in the smallish crowd, "Hey I need a drummer, if you're interested," and invited others to "shake your bootie if you want to." Reid got back on his feet (a notable moment of compliance) and poised his legs like a hoofer in an audition for Chorus Line. Now he had permission to tap his feet alternately right and left, and snap tap his fingers! Gotta love natural inclusion opportunities!! Big Eddie was cool with me.

He interspersed a few lyrics he'd written between lengthy guitar solos. A total departure from the other two, Big Eddie was more of an Eddie Van Halen wannabe. I wondered where his wife and kids were. They would have been identifiable in the intimate audience. During the fifth guitar solo, Jim commented, "This is why I sold my amp and electric guitar." Not Big Eddie. He's stickin' with it! A rocker for life.

After his third song, "Cosmic Love," we called it a night and headed home. Sunday is a school night. Very amusing, good clean fun, a peanut butter cookie and a tasty macchiato made for a happy camper van headed home on Mother's Day.

The punch line is this: at bedtime as we were tucking Reid in, reflecting on the novelty of the evening, openly laughing at the memory, Reid chimed in, "I think Big Eddie needs to move to a quiet area."

The high-level cognitive function that goes into a comment like that was not lost on me. It was a special treat to hear evidence that he has generalized his behavior plan, not only into our home environment but also projected it onto others in coffee houses. The comment attested to his sense of humor, ability to track and process the conversation, and put himself into others' shoes. Big Eddie was "being silly." Or was he?

They sing to the music of tambourine and harp; they make merry to the sound of the flute. Job 21:11-13

A word aptly spoken
is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
Proverbs 25:10-12

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land.
Mark 6:46-48


  1. hahaha that is great! From the mouth of babes huh?

    It sounds like you have a family who loves you very much. Those intimate moments are ones that bring you closer together. Thanks for sharing.

  2. "he has generalized his behavior plan"



  3. The other Eddie.

    Big Eddie's hero... doing what Big Eddie was trying so hard to emulate.

  4. Too funny! I got a good laugh out of that one. Way to go Reid. Cherish those moments and those comments!!!

    Shaker Heights, OH

  5. The funny thing is when I first started reading this post, I thought *you* were going to perform at Open Mic Night. 8)

    I love this story!

    If only we all had behavior support plans for "feeling silly."