Dear Jeffy (Go Ask Susie): Good-Enough Parenting
Thoughts on Empty Nests, New Music, and Fantasy Football
Mike: I was thinking of punny names for Wilco-themed fantasy football teams. I'm a Rams guy from their days in St. Louis, so clearly my team would be "I'm the RAM who loves you" (or possibly (r)A.M.). But I was thinking of others, like aside from the obvious "Hotel Arizona Cardinals" and "Via Chicago Bears", there are more obscure ones like "She's a Jaguar" and "Yankee Goodell Foxtrot."
Anyway, my question is twofold: do you have a fantasy football team, and if so, what is its name? More generally, what is your stance on puns?
SMT: Puns can be fun.
JT: I’m pro pun. I don’t understand fantasy football.
SMT. Me neither. We have so much in common!
JT: I’m not judging. It seems like it’s a lot of fun and I’m all for anything that gets middle-aged men off the streets, enjoying each other’s company. And not hurting anybody. Hopefully.
Keegan: You two seem to have done a great job with your sons, and I’m wondering if you have any sage advice you could share?
Richard: How did you and Susie handle the empty nest after the boys went away for college? My wife and I are at that stage and are mid-adjustment. Any advice?
JT: I think the thing we can take credit for with our kids, and be proud of and recommend to other people, is that we never talked down to them or acted like they were extensions of us that we needed to mold into something different than who they already are. Even very young we accepted them as fully-formed people. People we tried to get to know, and tried to help guide and set boundaries for, but not people we would get to make. I think that was a good approach, and I think they appreciated that.
SMT: We were only empty nesters for three months. The one year they were both supposed to be at college, Spencer graduated early and came home three months after Sammy started! Now we are empty nesters, but Sammy’s only been gone for like a week, so we’ll see. Sounds fun.
JT: So far, so good. I always used to call it good-enough parenting. I think there’s an impulse in people to try and be perfect.
SMT: Wellllll…that is not us.
JT: It’s impossible to be perfect, and it’s also sorta antithetical to the task at hand. You’re trying to make a person who is capable of, essentially, being a person. Your kids seeing you struggle, and figure out how to get through things, and seeing you make mistakes—having them see you persevere and succeed, alongside experiencing frustrations. I think all of that is a better—or more honest—preparation for what life is going to be like.
SMT: Because people have seen our kids on The Tweedy Show and stuff and see that they’re sweet and nice and awesome, people think we’re great parents. I don’t think there is any chance that we are better parents than the people asking these questions. I think if you’re present and doing the best you can, that’s all you can do.
JT: If you’re asking other people what to do, then you're probably already a good parent because you’re displaying some curiosity about how to do it.
SMT: We are not people who should be giving advice about parenting in my opinion. We do the best we can but it’s just normal. Right? We also do really stupid things.
JT: I feel like the thing people see in our family is that there is an evident comfort and ease with being with each other, and a seeming desire to spend time with each other, and I think a lot of families do struggle with that. I know my family, growing up, didn’t have much “I wanna hang out with Mom and Dad”, and I think a lot of parents want to figure out a way to create that. I don’t know how we created that ourselves, except that our kids are maybe just nerds and like hanging out with their parents or something.
SMT: We were so lucky to have The Tweedy Show during the worst parts of the pandemic. It brought us closer together as a family, for at least an hour a night, and it was a lot of fun. I wish everyone could have had something like that for their own families. Semi-forced togetherness can be very rewarding.
JT: It’s something you can’t make happen. It’s a roll of the dice with every kid that is born. We have one kid that spent half of The Tweedy Show in his room because that is what he preferred. And there was space for that, for him to be free to do that. When he does come to the room, it makes him feel like it’s on his own terms, and I think he has a desire and appreciation of being there, more so than if we were forcing him to participate.
Andrew: Hey, Jeffy and Susie. I was wondering how frequently (if at all), Susie travels with you on your international tours? Maybe more so, now that the nest is empty?
JT: I’m thrilled when Susie comes on the road with me. And it happens more often now. But we’ve never been the type of family who does that for months at a time. Without kids at home, we’re still getting used to not having responsibilities.
SMT: Exsqueezeeee me???? I still have plenty of responsibilities. Kids or no kids in the house.
Jack: What artist/musician/band has inspired you the most? Who are your favorite bands or artists? Thanks!
Dinah: Especially newer bands! Need some new stuff for a playlist.
JT: There are a lot of bands… always. Alvvays. That’s a great band. Kamikaze Palm Tree was out on the road with us. It’s always inspiring to see a band that has made up their own musical language to communicate with. Kamikaze Palm Tree grew out of a childhood friendship, and started making music before they knew the rules of making music, and has continued without refining that sound into anything else but their own personal language. Which is extremely uplifting and beautiful to witness.
Dry Cleaning is fun. Sort of a similar thing. They almost shouldn’t work as a band. It’s almost like some sort of Village People situation with cool interesting people instead of job stereotypes. They’re more like a librarian, a guidance counselor, and a tattoo artist.
I like any band that makes me feel like I’m being challenged to make something. There’s this thing that happens when you listen to new music and new bands. All of the sudden the bar becomes visible again in terms of what you’re aiming for, what you really want to make, and how you want to feel when you make something. I consider it a challenge that can’t go unmet. You don’t end up in the same place just because you aim at the bar that someone else has established. It’s just a healthy reminder that you should try hard.
JT: You really really have always loved live music more than having any connection with records. Other than records from when you were a kid.
SMT: That’s true…..especially if I can be right up front, like I often was at Lounge Ax! But of course I do love records too. Especially all of yours, darling.