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My son is 15 months old and, naturally, I’ve made it my fatherly duty to impress upon him all the things that I love in life. The goal, of course, is to make certain that he too will enjoy these things, and that I will ultimately have a tiny carbon copy of myself eager to hang out with his really cool Dad forever. And now that his attention span has grown from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, we’re currently working our way through my music collection ⏤ namely, the entire catalog of New Jersey’s Messiah: Bruce Springsteen.
I am, much to my wife’s dismay, a diehard Springsteen fan. His photo hangs on our living room wall. I’ve saved every book, magazine, and news clipping I’ve ever come across that mentions The Boss, and I’ve spent an unspeakable amount of money over the years to see Bruce in concert. He is, in fact, the only boss I listen to. And so down the rabbit hole my son and I have fallen over the last few months ⏤ the studio albums, the deep cuts, the bootlegs, the B sides, the interviews, the live DVDs. I’ve put it all out there for my son’s precious little ears to soak in and enjoy. What could possibly be a better soundtrack to stacking blocks than ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town?’ Lunchtime equals ‘Nebraska’ time. Dinner means ‘The River,’ and when he needs to relax before bed, nothing calms the soul like ‘Born in the USA.’
The only problem, as one might expect of a 15-month-old, is that my son could care less about Bruce Springsteen. He just stares at me while I sing the lyrics out of key as if to say, “Hey Dad, I just want to watch Daniel Tiger and chill.” He wants nothing to do with the Boss. As far as he’s concerned, Raffi would kick Bruce’s ass in a boardwalk brawl. Sesame Street is way cooler than E street.
You can imagine my disappointment. In time, I say to my wife. Eventually, he’ll come around to appreciating the finest musician our generation has ever known. And just when I realize that he is, in fact, his own person ⏤ with his own likes and dislikes ⏤ and that I should stop pushing my favorite stuff onto him, what’s that I hear before almost every Springsteen live track? Is that Bruce counting to four? Even if you’re not a card-carrying fan, you’ve heard infamous Bruce count-in to a song: “A one… two, a one, two, three, four.” It happens a lot. So much in fact that one fan devoted collected all of them on one track and posted it to YouTube.
And low and behold, you’d never guess who’s suddenly into counting? Of course, my son. The kid who could care less about Bruce or the E Street Band. It was working, he was paying attention. And while he may not be able to put the numbers in the correct sequence quite yet (or hit his toy drumsticks together to get the band’s timing right), at least he’s learning to love something ⏤ in this case, to count numbers. And while the future may not involve the two of us standing in Madison Square Garden for a four-hour Springsteen concert (never know), we can at least for the time being listen to some live Bruce in his room. I can dance around like a middle-aged white guy while my little pal counts along with the Boss, the greatest math teacher this generation has ever known.
Josh Sobel is a chef currently living in Portland, Maine, with his wife and 15-month-old son. He spends his time exploring the coast and chasing after birds with his son.