“Some kids play hockey.”

That’s what I said out loud to a stranger in a school parking lot as I helped my son into his kilt, sporran and flashings.

In our family we want our kids to learn some things: music is one of those things. In 4th grade my son Sawyer had joined the orchestra playing the double bass. Practice was right before school, the instrument was rented, and lessons were free. It didn’t get much easier for us as parents. But he HATED it. Lucky for him it was 2019-2020 and everyone was sent home. As he begged to quit orchestra, I offered him an alternative: Find an instrument to learn that is easier for me, cheaper for me, and just as convenient for me. He is stubborn. Two weeks later he showed us the website for the Chicago Highlanders, Pipes and Drums. Bagpipe lessons were online during the pandemic- and free for people who committed to join the band. They had an instrument to borrow, again, for free. The only thing we had to supply was the ear plugs.

Pro tip: You’re going to need ear plugs.

Our first in-person practice was in the basement of a church where we met The Band. Meeting The Band opened my eyes to a whole new world. They are dads, moms, grandparents, friends, men, women, firefighters, computer programmers…… everything. After spending more than 2 years with The Band, I can tell you it’s a real family. The Chicago Highlanders are one of those rare groups of people who just take you as you are. As an adult, and a parent, I was excited to show my son what this type of group was like. I feel like they are rare these days. They love their music, they love each other, and anyone else who loves the music is welcome. Musicians are respected and treated as equals no matter their age or skill. It’s all about the community.

After about a year of being dragged to band practice with his brother, my 6 year old son asked me if anyone there could teach him to play the drums. As it turns out, they do. So we bought a drum pad and sticks, and off he went. Now, almost two years into it, we have a piper and a drummer. Some kids play hockey. Some kids find a place to be loud and wear a kilt and be part of a band and march in parades, and learn about history, and look up to adults, and plan to compete, and always get better, but always know they are welcome at whatever level they are at right now.

There needs to be a word for the feeling a parent gets when they see their kid doing something that really fills their soul to the brim. Whatever that word is, it applies to my kids playing drums and pipes with the Chicago Highlanders.