It took me ten minutes to knock the dust off of my wife’s old acoustic last week, another five to tune it, and when I finally started in, my rendition of Volver may have ranked among the worst crimes against Mexican patrimony since La Familia rolled five severed heads onto the dance floor of Sol y Sombra disco in Uruapan.
And yet, I brought the guitar out again the next night. And the one after that. And, though I can practically hear the wild rolling of my wife’s eyes when I bring the guitar out each new time, I think I’ve got a nascent bedtime ritual going.
This is because my children are cobras at bedtime, hissing and bugeyed and dangerous, and I have to believe that something can charm them. Even though any sentient adult would wretch and paw at the door to escape if they had to hear me play guitar and sing, I think it has an opposite effect on my kids. It makes them just a touch sleepier, even a bit dreamy. Sometimes. Other times they pretend I’m not there and resume jumping into the walls and attacking each other with their sharp little nails. Last night, though, it seemed to have some tranquilizing effect.
But as Big Preg and I seem to agree, a good deal of parenting is more about the parents than the kids, and this is no exception. I keep bringing out the guitar because I miss playing music, even if it’s not my instrument. I can’t blame my children for having shelved my career as a musician–by the time my daughter, the oldest, was born, I was officially an ex-horn-player, someone who hadn’t been on stage in four years. But my mixed feelings about being transformed from a broke and irresponsible twenty-something to a Dad with Responsibilities in my mid-thirties has made me tie up music (and my lack thereof) with the responsibilities of parenthood.
The most insane manifestation of this: just before my son was born, I had this uncontrollable urge to find a band to play with, after a then-seven year absence. I made a MySpace demo page and started emailing any Craigslisters who had posted that their shitty ska band wanted a sax player to play midnight Wednesday gigs at some Williamsburg bar. This was at the same time that I was holding down a seventy-hour-a-week job and trying to figure out on earth we could raise two wolverines in our apartment. It was total madness, and I give my wife much credit for recognizing that my search would fizzle out of sheer impossibility; she spared me the humiliation of having to actually be told that I am not 25 anymore.
But this I can do. I can play guitar at bedtime. And it actually gives me a fixed role at bedtime, which more often than not ends with the kids calling out for their mother while I retire to the living/dining room to read my iPhone. Now I have the guitar, tuned or not, playing for them or for me, it’s all sort of satisfying. It a new use for a very old dream.