Saturday, July 26, 2008

My dream came true

My son was two years old when he first expressed an interest in the guitar. He also expressed an interest in using the cat's litter box as his own personal toilet, but I overlooked that desire and focused on the guitar.

I think most parents have some unrealized childhood dream that we all torture our children with. I've made no secret with my son about the fact that I am a piano lesson dropout. I took lessons for maybe a month when I was probably 12 or so and gave it up. It was interfering with --- well, absolutely nothing in my life, but I gave it up anyway.

Years later when I was 17, I tried the piano again. I think I lasted through 3 lessons before giving it up. I have no idea why I was so quick to give up playing a musical instrument. Maybe the fact that we didn't have a piano at home was a hurdle, but I probably could have somehow worked through it. No matter, I gave it up and still regret it. Yes. Still.

So my two-year-old Baby Boy latched onto a toy guitar and I saw it as a sign of his future Slash-ness. I wasn't just pulling it out of my hat, people. My brother is a guitar legend and my dad plays the guitar also. So, I have some experience in the arena. I could see something there. Some gift, some calling, some slight interest masked as a lump of coal that I could drag out and polish into a pretty, shiny diamond.

I put it off as long as I could, but when Baby Boy was 7 I signed him up to take guitar lessons. I bought a used junior acoustic guitar from my sister for $50. My nephew --- who is 6 years older than my son --- had quickly lost interest in his guitar lessons. I took no heed of my sister's hard earned life lesson, however, and instead paid Long Haired Guitar Guy $17.50 a week for 30 minutes of his expertise so my son could someday make his musical dream come true.

Two lessons in Long Haired Guitar Guy told me Baby Boy was having some trouble with the acoustic guitar and the electric would probably help him get the hang of it. So $125 later (give or take) and with a new electric guitar, guitar case, and amplifier, I felt like we were really on our way.

So began what I like to call the "Great Guitar Debacle" of early 2005. Baby Boy took lessons every week (give or take a missed lesson for various reasons) from January until July. Here is a sample of my life back then:

Me: Have you practiced guitar?
Him: No.
Me: You need to practice guitar.
Him: Can I do it later?
Me: You have to practice an hour every day.
Him: An hour's a really long time.
Me: Don't you want to learn to play guitar?
Him: Yes.
Me: Then you need to practice.
Him: Can I do it later?

I won't bore you with the rest. It usually involved sentences about money, commitment, money, stick-to-it-tive-ness, money. You get the picture.

In July of that year we said goodbye to Long Haired Guitar Guy. Frankly, it was a relief. No more badgering my 7 year old to practice his guitar. No more frustration that no guitar progress was being made. No more pouring my money into a guy's pocket so he can live out his rock star fantasy by holding out and not getting a real job. We were done. I mourned the loss and went on with my life. Mostly.

Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, months turned to years, as they tend to do. The electric guitar was brought out now and then. Some interest was shown in it for an hour or so and, I admit it, my heart would start to soar and my hope would start to build. Then baseball season would start, or other passions would take over (horse riding lessons, Xbox) and the electric guitar would be placed in the back of the closet once again. An outcast, out of favor, out of luck. The acoustic had really lost favor and --- in a fit of hopelessness --- I sold it at a yard sale last fall for $15. That was a low point.

Who would have thought that hope would return in the most unlikely form? Believe it or not Xbox actually contributed a positive to family life.

Baby Boy got his Xbox for Christmas last year. Around February, he dipped into his savings and bought Rock Band. The whole family has really loved playing that game. We even have our own band with me on guitar, my son on drums, and my husband contributing his unique vocal stylings. My son enjoys the Rock Band drums, but he mostly likes playing guitar.

Well, the video game guitar rekindled his interest in playing the guitar for real. He started trying to teach himself how to play the guitar, picking it up now and then. I waited a couple of months, not willing to be dragged through the ups and downs of the music world again. Finally, though, this week we met Long Haired Guitar Guy #2 and Baby Boy had his first lesson.

It went really well. We both like the second version of LHGG and Baby Boy seems very willing to practice, without my constant nagging.

For example, after his guitar lesson, my son came home, tuned his guitar, and promptly went to work on learning a song LHGG #2 had given him. It's a song from The White Stripes. I have never been a fan, but with every passing hour their sound is growing on me. Click this to listen to what my week has sounded like.

So, my son has been playing the guitar a lot. Going over his scales, practicing the songs, it's been totally different than our last experience with the guitar. I even said some words I never thought I would utter when I told him, "Okay, you need to take a break from the guitar for a few hours." Am I never satisfied? ;)

I've told him how proud I am that he is willing to work so hard for something he wants. I made sure he is the one wanting it this time around. He says he does.

But he knows how much I want him to succeed at this. He knows I think this knowledge will add something positive to his life and he knows that I'm happy he's taking it back up again. So when he was putting his guitar away a couple of days ago, he told me "I'm glad your dream finally came true." Meaning my dream for him to want to learn to play the guitar.

I have to admit it's pretty awesome and in ways I do feel like my dream has come true. I might even try my hand at the piano again.

Or maybe I'll just learn to play the drums on Rock Band.

1 comment:

A. said...


Thanks for stopping by my blog.

I always my whole life wanted to learn to play the piano. I never did and I regret it.

My boy is six and says he'd like to play music. I'm afraid of starting him too early and burning him out. And also afraid of never getting around to it and regretting it.

I'm thinking 8 would be a good year. He's about to be 7.