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Now that Lila’s 8 we thought we should get her doing something. We’ve never been very good at the kid parlor tricks. You’ve seen them. “My kid knows this stuff that I’ve told them about a bunch of times”. It’s usually something that the parent is interested in or something that the parent would like to be interested in. Fair enough. We all want the best for our kids. Just don’t make me sit through the recital of the presidents or constellations. I get it. This kid’s going places.

We’ve asked Lila if she would like to play soccer. I think it’s prerequisite to inquire about the great orb called soccer. We’re not native Minnesotans, so hockey is off the table. She’s taken community education Karate classes at the age of 5. It was $6.00 per lesson and worth every penny. She grew tired of karate one class before I did. She took dance at Montessori day care. Her teacher was a very enthusiastic instructor named Missy and the kids got to call her Miss Missy.  We laid down the law and said that she had to finish – partially because we purchased a costume for the final performance. Miss Missy actually took Lila’s side and asked that if she couldn’t commit, it might be best for her to not attend. We didn’t miss Miss Missy when Lila stopped going.

We asked Lila if she would like to take swimming lessons. She had lessons when she was younger but at some point didn’t like the part where practicing swimming cut into her playing in the water. I asked her if there were any sports she would like to take part in. She told me that she doesn’t like games. I think this just pertains to games that I ask her about. Maybe it’s something to do with a ball. Wait, no. Swimming and dance don’t hit or kick a rubber circle. 

Here’s the problem. I’m a bad parent. I could give a rat’s buttock if Lila plays a sport or competes in something. If she finds something that she likes and meets nice kids doing that, I’m all for it. Somehow we would like her to be active. If that comes from catching frogs outside by a river, that’s fine. Only we expect her to be committed and the best frog catcher she can be. It’s important to challenge oneself in life and striving to be better builds character. Sure. Sometimes. On occasion sports have been known to breed arrogance and homogeneity.

We did want her to have something for herself. Something that could stay with her for life. She’s not at all interested in soccer and she can swim well enough to get away from a sinking boat. Our neighbor is a piano teacher, so we said that she had to take piano lessons. She said, “fine” like she’s doing us a favor but really liked the idea. So, after all the questioning, searching and prodding she decided upon piano lessons. In the beginning I’ve been going with her to her lessons. My idea is to be able to help her practice and support her (Suzuki Method without me really being pressured to learn anything).  But I said that I would try to learn with her.

The reason I want to help her and be there when she practices is because she has my genetic makeup. When I was a young boy I had a little guitar that I carried everywhere. I strummed it endlessly. My parents played no instruments and I was their first child. They thought I must be a prodigy.  With no musical training they mistook strumming endlessly for musical talent. It’s a simple mistake. They got me into guitar lessons. My brother and I shared an hour.  Our lessons were in the early 70s with a very nice afro that sat on top of a young man- like he was in the band Boston. Our lessons took place in the basement of an appliance store on a small square of shag carpeting. It was a creative oasis where just a few short feet away there was a washing machine hooked up and used as a demo model. If my brother and I had been better we could have imagined the thug-thug-thug-thug of the washing machine as part of our back up band. We couldn’t do that. I just kept watching the people and wondering why they would bring clothes in to test a washing machine. My brother’s half hour was packed full of him breaking strings like a bull in a guitar string store. In between snapping strings and thug-thug-thug-thug I made up stories in my head about who the people were and why they were testing washing machines on a Saturday morning. After a month, my brother dropped out of guitar lessons. Then, I received the undivided attention of the afro that was teaching me the strings and chords.  Man, that afro could play.

I wanted to be with Lila during practice because I remembered my practice schedule. I was told to practice a half an hour every night. I did this in my room. The goal was to finish before All in the Family or whatever sitcom was on.  My practicing was not really to be a guitar player. I practiced almost everything but that. One practice had me playing the back of my guitar like a drum. The next night I might be giving a performance in China and plucking away up by the tuning pegs or down by the bridge. Sometimes I would get my brother closest in age to be my body-guard. I would have my younger brother and sister pretend to be fans with instructions to try to get my autograph. My brother would hustle me from room to room and knock my other brother and sister aside and grant an occasional autograph.  

So you understand why I think I need to be near my offspring when practicing. Come to think of it, maybe Soccer would be good for her. Maybe something outside of my guidance.

Sadly Yours,

Jason Spafford

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