When I found out my wife was pregnant, I was ecstatic. I’d dreamed of being a Dad for so long, but I also recognized that my lifestyle was going to need a transformation. Late nights rocking out with friends would be replaced with late nights rocking my son to sleep. My meticusloy-curated man cave would morph into a cozy, jungle-themed nursery. And my guitar collection would need to move to make room for a pack-and-play. Or so I thought.
Music has been a passion of mine since I was young, and I wanted to introduce that to my son as soon as possible. It did not take long; during her pregnancy, my wife’s belly became a concert hall. I’ve read studies that claimed music heard pre-birth could help stimulate development, increase music appreciation, and encourage later creativity. I opted to forgo some of my favorites, like Slayer and Iron Maiden, and went with the classics, Mozart, Beethoven, and some light jazz. If his kicks were any indication, he certainly enjoyed the tunes.
As the months went by and my son’s cries turned to laughter, and his cooing turned into words like Dada and Mama, I forgot about my goal of using music as a learning tool. It was when I saw his incredibly positive reaction to a young woman playing guitar at a birthday party, that I remembered that music would need to be a vital part of his childhood.
Upon hearing the strings strummed to the tunes of “The Wheels on the Bus” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” my son stood, clapped, and smiled with pure enjoyment. Incredibly, he was giving this lady his undivided attention, and as anyone with a toddler knows, having their child pay attention to anything longer than 15 seconds is a considerable achievement.
When we arrived home, I enthusiastically dusted off my acoustic guitar and started playing some basic chords. It did not matter to my son that I missed a note here or there, he was mesmerized. This shiny object strapped to Dada’s chest was producing the same sounds he’d heard earlier, and he was thrilled.
Over the next few months, the guitar has proven to be a handy tool whenever he is cranky, upset, or simply not cooperating. In addition to learning some of the most popular children’s songs, I wrote my own songs for specific situations, including “The Diaper Song” and “Feed Me More.” Fortunately, he does not realize the songs all sound unerringly similar and my voice is not exactly radio friendly; he really is the perfect audience.
Every now and again, I’ll sneak in some of Iron Maiden’s riffs and watch him bounce up and down in ecstasy. I encourage anyone with a child to try this—with whatever music you like. Chances are your child will enjoy it as well. After you learn just two or three basic chords, you can play almost anything. Now I look forward to teaching my son how to play guitar himself. Watch out, this father and son duo may be hitting your town to rock out!
Michael Goldberg, from Cliffside Park, is a loving dad to a beautiful 1-year-old son.