Last year my daughter asked if we could watch American Idol. A show neither of us had ever seen but her best friend, Maddy, had been hooked on for years.
Seeing that my girl was 8 and listening to Adam Lambert on her iPod I figured, sure, let’s give this little show a whirl.
I had no idea the monster I had unleashed into our home.
For starters, we were like aliens from another planet when we told people we were watching Idol for the first time. You would seriously think we had said we finally lost our tails and can now wear pants like the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, our first Idol experience would be without the colorful, slurring, ever controversial Paula Abdul. However, we were getting newcomer judge Ellen DeGeneres who I’ve always been a huge fan of.
It seemed that as the world was starting to turn Idol off, lose interest, and not get wrapped up in the competition hype, my daughter and I were discovering it for the first time and acting like the obsessed Idol fans from the Carrie Underwood days.
The morning after Idol we would say to friends at school, “Hey, you see Idol last night?” They looked at us like, “Uh, really, that is like so three years ago.”
Every week on Idol night I planned a special dinner and dessert — Our Idol Meal. My kid only wanted steak. Every week our conversation was something like this,
“Baby, what do you want for your Idol dinner?”
“You sure? You had steak last week. How ’bout spaghetti?”
“Mac and cheese?”
“Mommy, I want steak for my Idol meal. Always.”
I think I went into debt just by trying to maintain this ridiculous routine I had started. Why do I have to make everything a celebration? When I was a kid it was TV dinners and Donny and Marie. The big decision — would I pick the TV dinner with pudding or chocolate brownie?
As for our dessert on Idol night we fell into a frozen yogurt ritual. This was actually more for me than Hannah since I’m not much of a red meat eater. I’d gladly skip dinner in exchange for a bucket of frozen yogurt with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup on top.
We would go into our local Studio Yogurt shop and while we picked our flavors I would tell the gals behind the counter, “It’s Idol night. We’re having our special Idol meal. This is our first time watching Idol and…” blah, blah, blah.
One time my girl was listening to me and when we got in the car she said, “Mommy, why do you have to be so friendly? Do you have to tell everyone what we do? Just get our yogurt. She doesn’t care that we’re watching American Idol for the first time.”
The next week when we went in to get our yogurt I didn’t talk about Idol. No. Instead, I relayed to the gal the conversation Hannah and I had in the car about me being too friendly. “… And then she said, ‘Mommy they don’t care that we’re watching American Idol for the first time.’ “
The gal cracked up. Hannah buried her face in her hands, “Why, Mommy, why?” But in-between my little girl’s fingers I could see the enormous smile on her face. She was laughing too.
We watched Idol every week and because I don’t have TiVo or DVR or VCR or any R. Nope, we had to watch it while it was happening and endure commercials and all. That’s commitment.
Now, we had both heard about Simon and his harshness over the years, his That was horrible! Too pitchy! Like a cat being thrown out a building! You should never sing again! etc.
But, honestly, 9 times out of 10 he was right. Brutal, but right.
I knew I was becoming an Idol junkie when I had my first “using” dream. I dreamed I was dating Ryan Seacrest and he was extremely kind and a surprisinglygreat kisser.
This is why I don’t watch television! I become an addict! Give me an escape and I’m the first one to get on board and the last one to want to leave. But, it was too late. I had unlocked the Idol devil in our home and there was just no turning back.
As the season moved on Hannah stayed firm in her support for Crystal Bowersox while I jumped that ship half way through and joined the Lee DeWyze camp.
We were happy. Sharing in this new experience. Enjoying our weekly bonding time over food, music and laughter. We even purchased the American Idol magazine.
And then it happened. The moment when I realized what a mistake this had all been. The moment it hit me that this damn show was forever going to change my daughter and how she sees me.
Folks, it was the moment, the day the music died… in our home.
Since my girl was a baby we’d had a bedtime routine. After books and snuggles, after kisses and last-minute drinks of water, after lights out and static sound machine on… this mommy sings.
Songs from Annie, Chorus Line, The Sound of Music, I’m Really Rosie and always an original ditty from my youth.
It was a tradition that we loved and always had my daughter asking for, “Just one more, Mommy, pleeeeaasssee.”
But, on this night things took a strange turn. After I finished my medley and I waited for my girl to have her usual response with a request or encore, instead what I got was,
“Mommy, you’re a little pitchy.”
And I swear she almost said it with a British accent.
Yes, Idol had given my daughter an opinion. A sense of taste. A vocabulary that included the word, pitchy.
What was I to do? Quit singing? Quit Idol?
I chose neither. After all, there was a large investment in Idol. Steaks every week, chatter with the yogurt gals, hours and hours of real-time television and I figured, hey, I’ll work on my singing. I’ll come back next season and be even better.
But as this season’s Idol started approaching I was having second thoughts about whether or not I should allow the beast to live in our home again.
And then, a few months ago I was at my agent’s office with my manager to discuss my career. As we were leaving, we stepped into the elevator. Who were we face to face with? None other than Steven Tyler.
Everyone on the elevator was eerily quiet, like, “Let’s pretend we don’t all know that Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aeorsmith, is here.” Everyone, that is, except my manager. Unable to control his boyish excitement, he beamed and blurted out, “Wow. Steven Tyler. Awesome.”
Steven smiled and said, “It can happen, man. It can happen,” and then proceeded to sing the first line of Love in an Elevator.
I saw it as a sign.
So, a new season of Idol has begun and, yes, Hannah and I have taken our front-row seats on the couch. New judges, new dinner menu, new highlights in my hair—yes, everything feels different. Perhaps with the absence of Simon, even our bedtime routine will feel new again.
And as we got to that moment, snuggles, kisses, water, sound machine, medley… I waited. Would I be voted off?
I saw the look in her eye. She didn’t want to say it. Didn’t want to hurt me. Clearly she has already moved away from the days of Simon and adapted to the gentle JLo approach of judging.
“Too pitchy,” I said.
She nodded, then hugged me.
Well, I guess some things haven’t changed. Maybe I should start singing to her after she falls asleep.