How Learning to Play the Guitar is Making Me a Better Parent

I have been learning to play the guitar.  I have had a guitar for over twenty years, but have only begun the practice of learning to play it in the last six months.

It's all Taylor Swift’s fault.

I have a daughter.  She is eleven years old.  For her birthday last year we got two tickets to take her to see her favorite singer, Taylor Swift, in concert.  She was super excited.

And secretly, so was I.  I love to go see music and there is something really sweet and pure about Taylor Swift.


August finally rolled around and TAYLOR SWIFT WAS AWESOME!!!  The venue was full of moms and daughters (and a handful of dads, boyfriends and brothers) singing and dancing and laughing and spending time having the shared experience of music, fun and joy.  My daughter and I had a great time.

So of course, after that, Rowan wanted to play the guitar.

Excited to ride the wave of this connection I responded with, “Let’s both take lessons together!!”

She loved this idea, so I signed us up at the new music store in town.

She even spent all of her allowance on a new, sparkly blue, acoustic guitar….  Oh the mother/daughter jam sessions we would have…..  Connected by our love of music…  I am so good at projecting into the future.

Well, it didn’t really work out how I hoped. 

It was the day of our fourth lesson.  It was a Friday.  I was getting things ready to go, and Rowan approaches me and tells me she doesn’t want to take guitar lessons anymore.

Dagger to my heart.

It is so interesting to look back and think about all the emotions that showed up for me in that moment.  It was a bit like getting the wind knocked out of me at first – that crazy moment when you realize that you can’t breathe…  There is a desperation that shows up, quickly replaced by my own regret of not learning to play guitar earlier in my life, followed by the sense of rejection.

These emotions do not generally support really quality parenting.

What are you talking about?  You spent all that money on your guitar! 

We’ve already paid for this lesson!

 Fine!  Whatever!  I’m still going…

The last response was my failed attempt to just let it go.  I say failed because I didn’t let it go, I just stopped talking.  What I did do was an epic silent treatment (read: I'm just going to ignore you so you feel bad and know that I am mad about this) that lasted the whole ten minutes leading up to me leaving.

Ugh.  As soon as I got into the car I felt like a huge jerk.  I had reacted emotionally.  It hurt me that she wasn’t interested in having this experience with me and I hurt her back.  So lame. 

I went to the lesson and told the teacher he would only be working with me, that Rowan was done.  My teacher, being the wise fellow he is, made a point of letting me know that she may not be done, that she was just done for now.

And then I realized something big.

I saw the gift in the situation.

I was going to learn to play the guitar. 

My kids were going to have the opportunity to watch me going through the process of learning something new.  They were going to see and hear me practice.   I would be a model for them, as they continue to learn new things.

I can’t quit the guitar, even if I want to...  I am now on a mission to learn how to do it, to enjoy the learning, to carry on even when a song or a chord feels impossible.  I am vocal about my difficulties, and excited when I have a breakthrough.  I practice lots when the kids are home, so they can hear my progress.

And guess what?  My kids are taking it all in….   I am learning a Taylor Swift song (bwahahahaha) and teaching Rowan some of what I am learning.  She is guarded, but sometimes open to playing with me.

I am remembering how it feels to be a learner…  How overwhelming it feels to have someone show you something you can’t believe you would ever be able to do.  How tedious it can feel to practice the same small step over and over.  How challenging it can be to make time to practice… 

Its not easy to decide to be a learner, and our kids are learners by default.  They are constantly be confronted with new skills and problems that they can’t wrap their head around. 

Learning to play the guitar has offered me an opportunity to grow my compassion for their overwhelm... 

Who knew learning the guitar is helping me to be a better parent???

“The real juice of life, whether it be bitter or sweet, is to be found not nearly so much in the products of our efforts as in the process of living itself, in how if feels to be alive.”
Gearge Leonard, from Mastery; The Keys to Success and Long Term Fulfillment