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The Guitar Lesson

Teachings of a Three Year Old.

by Hal Evan Caplan
February 24, 2007

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The Guitar Lesson
My 3 year old son is an "amazing" teacher (as he puts it) because I learn from him everyday. Sometimes the lessons are small and sometimes the lessons are huge. My teacher's lessons often allow me to rethink why I currently do some of the things that I do and that I should look deep inside myself to make a change for the better. The thing about "his teachings" is that the lessons hit me when I least expect them to do so. That is what makes the lessons so interesting.

I play the guitar. No, I used to play the guitar. Actually...I used to take lessons to learn how to play the guitar. To make a long story short, I was taking lessons for years, all the way up until the time that my son was born. Then, I stopped taking lessons and stopped practicing and in turn, "stopped" playing. That was about 3 years ago.

One of my dreams was to know how to play the guitar. I'm not talking "Rock Star" style, nor did I want to be part of a band that played at the local pub on Wednesday nights. The type of guitar playing that I'm talking about is more along the lines of strumming in front of a campfire surrounded by friends or picking it up and belting out some tunes whenever I was in the mood.

A few months ago, my 3 year old teacher saw my guitar and asked me if he could play it. For the past 3 years, my guitar has been propped up in the corner of my bedroom and hasn't been touched. The fact that he actually asked me if he could play it surprised me because he'd never seen me play before...so why all of a sudden would he want to do so out, of the blue. I figured that it would be entertaining to watch him in action, so I agreed. What I didn't know at the time is what was in store for me next. This little experience taught me a valuable lesson, a lesson that I never expected to learn.

As we sat together on the bed, I handed him the guitar and he placed it in a particular way that allowed him to play like a master performer. And, believe me he shined! As he "played" his version of the song for me, he began to laugh and as usual, he totally cracked me up.

After watching him for a little while, images of me playing the guitar from the past flashed through my thoughts and my smile must have faded. I inadvertently tuned him, out because I became so consumed with the fact that I had given up learning how to play. At that instant, my teacher must have been able to read my face like a book because his performance had stopped and the lesson began.

"Dad...DAD...DAAAAD!" He screamed.

Finally breaking my trance-like state of thinking, I acknowledged him.

"Sorry...yes, son?" I answered

"Are you sad?" He questioned.

"No?why do you ask?"

"Because, you look sad." He explained.

"What makes you say that?"

"Because your face is funny."

Now, I could have taken that comment many different ways, but I knew exactly what he meant. Brushing off the obvious, I continued the conversation.

"What do you mean, my face is funny?"

"You stopped smiling and then your face was...was funny."

"Sorry, I was just thinking about something."

"You know Dad; I've been thinking about something, too"...pausing for a moment, he continued, "you need to play the guitar... LIKE ME!"

Then, he handed me the guitar and he expressed that he would teach me how. This action...his action, brought back my smile accompanied with a chuckle.

"See Dad, you already have a smile on your face and you're happy, AGAIN!"

He "taught" me how to play the guitar for some time, before I spoke up and expressed that at one time, I was learning how to play the guitar.

"Why did you stop?" He asked.

"Sometimes things just get so crazy." I said.

"Why?" He expressed.

"Well because as you get older, time just seems to..." Before I could finish, I was cut off.

"No, why did you stop playing?" He asked again.

"I just told you." I demanded.

"But why can't you do all of that other stuff AND play the guitar, TOO?"

"Like I was saying, there is so much other stuff going on..." I started to say before getting interrupted again.

"So what!" He exclaimed.

"But..." I tried to answer, but couldn't.

He was right, he stumped me. I couldn't even finish my last thought. That is exactly why he is my teacher.

And in the final conclusion of his lesson, he brought it home...

"...maybe...maybe, you should JUST play the guitar from now on, it'll be fun. All you need to do is just play...PLAY Dad, PLAY!"

In a nutshell, the lesson that I learned that day is: Don't forget about your dreams, no matter how small they may be.

Comments (2)

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gcc from the south writes:
February 24, 2007
so true and so awesome. very warm and heartfelt. gcc in the south

S.E. Shepherd from Chicago, IL writes:
February 26, 2007
I have stopped and started playing the guitar so many times, I've lost count. One day when I was moving stuff around, I came across my old guitar again, brought it out and played it for my son, who's two and a half. He loved it and loved "playing" it too. Hopefully this will foster an interest in guitar for both of us! Thanks for your article!

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Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke
Published September 28, 2010

A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

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