Of Fatherhood, Sons, and Music

So, today is the beginning of a special week in the Lawson house. Thirteen years ago, in the midst of the Christmas and New Years season we gave birth to our second child, our first son.  And, this week, we will have a special reception honoring him, a reception of men that are important in his life who will bless him and celebrate his entrance to the glorious adventure of manhood.

He’s turning 13. And, I’m trying to wrap my head around it.

I remember when we found out we were having a boy, my heart leaped for joy (it would have done the same thing had they said we were having another girl, I suppose, too. Regardless, there was a definite leap). But the leap was followed almost immediately by a deep dread. I’m having a son. And, I don’t have any idea what to do with him. When I was growing up, while other boys were playing little league baseball and basketball, I was playing music. While other boys were playing with toy cars and climbing trees, I was playing the clarinet (not exactly what every full-blooded American boy does). When other boys were fishing and hunting, I was reading.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve played baseball with my cousins, climbed every mountain in the holler, fished dozens of times, even played junior pro basketball (which, by the way, was a complete disaster and no way to start my middle school career). I’ve chopped down trees with my buddies and made forts out of poplar trees, been hunting and fishing with my dad and brother, and watched or heard on the radio more Cincinnati Reds games than I care to remember. But, for me, it was just, well, not much fun.

What WAS fun was recording the bluegrass gospel music at my little country church each week on my handheld tape recorder (yes….tapes, not CD’s or MP3s) and analyzing the chords and learning the harmony parts. What WAS fun was pretending to direct the high school and band and play drums on lard buckets. What WAS fun was recording classical music off NPR (which we got in the mountains on the radio when the wind blew just right) and learning the melody on my sister’s clarinet (Overture to Candide by Bernstein was my favorite). It was just odd for a young kid in my neck of the woods (especially a boy) to have such interests, especially in Appalachian Eastern KY. I always felt odd…like something was wrong with me….like I was different. My dream was to be a pianist in my local church, and to be a high school band director….and occasionally I would have a backyard VBS with my stuffed animals who needed Jesus.

If I had a son, what would I DO with him? I’d RUIN HIS LIFE. He would hate me forever because I didn’t play sports or take him fishing or hunting.

When my son was born, he immediately bonded with my wife (which boys usually do when they’re newborns), which made me even more nervous. But around the age of two, he wouldn’t leave my side. As he grew, I watched as my interests slowly became his interests. I watched him bring his buckets to my choir rehearsals and as I was leading the rehearsal, he would play along on his “drums.” I watched him learn to play drums at age 6, piano at at 8, and the guitar as soon as his little hands were strong enough to push down the strings. I remember one Christmas driving down the road listening to Christmas music on the radio and hearing harmony from the back seat, realizing he had somehow, unbeknownst to me, learned to sing harmony.

But the kicker would come early one morning when I was working on my Sunday sermon. I was in my bathrobe, with a cup of coffee and my Bible, typing away on my computer. He came downstairs early that morning (to him, one of the traits of being a man is getting up early in the morning which he apparently learned from me…not a bad trait to learn). He got a coffee cup for his apple juice, sat across from me with his Bible and a notepad, “working on his sermon.” He sipped his juice, looked up at me and said “I just know I’m going to be a coffee drinker someday…I just know it.” That was followed later that day with a heated debated between us about which of us had correctly by ear guessed the key of the song we were listening to….he was right, I was wrong.

I had created a monster! I had created another “me!”

But, my son isn’t hung up on feeling like he’s different. He doesn’t think he’s odd at all because, to him, how could he be? He’s just like his dad…and he thinks his dad is the most amazing man there is. He thinks I hung the moon. I am his hero. No pressure! But, now he’s 13, and everything is uncertain. He’s changing; his questions are deeper now, like his voice. He’s playing classical music on the piano that I couldn’t have played as a college student. He’s playing three different instruments on the adult worship team at church….not at the same time of course!  Girls look different to him now (let’s just leave it at that). How will a middle-school romance affect his heart? What happens at the music competition when he DOESN’T always win first prize? How do I help him navigate the waters of a sex-crazed culture as a man of God who lives by standards? I guess the same way he and I have tackled the first 13 years….with lots of talks, lots of music, lots of prayer, lots of love. Hopefully that will be enough!

Happy birthday, TJ!Image


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