My son is too much like his mother.
I can see parts of his personality growing to become mirror images of mine. We’re both entirely too sensitive and take everything personally. We see the world in black and white, right and wrong and are hard to dissuade when we’ve made our decision on which is which. That one I’ve almost grown out of and am much more flexible these days, I promise.
However, the hardest one to overcome is our need to be good at everything we decide to attempt – drawing, music, soccer. No matter what it is, we don’t want to do it if our natural abilities won’t let us start better than everyone else.
Now, my son is having this issue with music.
I was raised with music as a large part of my life. My dad is a musician – guitar, bass, Dobro – and my sister and I grew up watching him perform in countless bands or have jam sessions at family pig roasts and get-togethers. We both took piano lessons; however, I quit early on over a difference of opinion with the piano teacher. She was mean and I didn’t like mean teachers.
But I still can play a tiny bit of “Stand By Me” and “Heart and Soul,” and, of course, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” We all sang, although my mom insists that she “only plays the radio.”
I decided around 15 or 16 I wanted to learn the guitar. I was pretty obsessed with Janis Joplin and “Me and Bobby McGee” was No. 1 on my learn-to-play list. Plus that was when Lilith Fair was happening and there was an explosion of girl folk singers. I fit right in.
So I got a guitar, my dad taught me some chords and I started playing. I learned classic rock songs and oldies and angsty, acoustic girl power songs, then began writing my own angsty, acoustic girl power songs. I played guitar in church on many Sundays with a group of friends and a couple of times played at school chorus events.
But I slowed down considerably in college and stopped all together once I had my first kid. Time, you know? There’s only so much of it.
So when my son showed interest in music, I pushed for the guitar. My dad, who stresses the importance of nurturing musical talent, fixed him a left-handed one and we scheduled lessons with a local teacher.
But the problem is there was too much time between scheduling and the start of lessons. He had a couple of weeks to think and too much time to try it and see he’s not going to be able to play the guitar well without practice. He’s worried he’s not going to be good enough and so we had many, many discussions on why it’s important to work at skills, to push yourself, to just try. Because it’s in the trying and the effort that you see what you can accomplish.
He went into his first lesson excited and nervous and came out ready to learn. I can hear him in his room after bedtime and early in the morning strumming, trying as hard as he can to fret the G chord using his pinky.
What’s really great is that this is something we can do together. He wants me to work with him, to play with him. So now I’m excited and ready to pick my own guitar back up and play.
I wonder if he wants to learn any Lisa Loeb?
*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on March 23, 2016.