The Sins of Parenthood

We aren’t the first parents to impel our child


The Sins of Parenthood
by Ghahremani

For years I sat at my computer and enjoyed the sound of a strumming guitar coming from the next room. That gentle music had become so much a part of my daily life that I never gave it a second thought. At some juncture a realization smacked me. In my silence, I seem to have condoned the injustice that had changed my life and may now be affecting my son’s.

My son is a natural musician. Not like the ones who take instructions and occasionally stop their routine to practice, but the kind who are forced to stop their music so that they may tend to what the rest of us call life.

Towards the end of senior year, he was overwhelmed to be admitted to Berklee School of Music in Boston, his dreamland. Following the example of concerned parents, and proud of our left-brain deficiency, we insisted that he earn his BA and major in a mainstream subject, just in case he should ever need a desk job. Naturally he wouldn’t do anything that might break his father’s heart, so he remained here and studied philosophy and English instead.

Each time I think about this, I look back at my own life and see the day I was persuaded to enroll in dental school and forsake my dream of being a writer/poet. Our only difference is that forty years later, I’m still holding a grudge while this good man has already moved on without as much as a complaint.

Still, the fact remains that we may have done him wrong and admitting to our fault offers no comfort and telling myself that he could still attend Berklee with a basic degree used to help only a little. But it seems I was wrong again. Berklee closed its undergraduate program two years before our son’s graduation. Simple as that. Gone.

Over the years I have listened to the wonderful sound of his guitar, piano, the drum - even bongos. When it comes to music, there’s nothing that he won’t try. Hours suddenly become meaningless as he works through the night and I will never know where that abundance of energy comes from. Even when there are no instruments available, his fingers drum the side of his thigh or the tabletop and what comes out is wonderful to listen to. He breathes music, lives it, and no doubt dreams it, too. He uses a variety of gadgets to muffle the sound so as not to disturb anyone.

This week he is home for a few days and once again, our home is filled with joyous music. A born-and-raised American, he knows little about Persian classics, so it surprised me to hear that he wishes to learn playing the ‘tar’, a Persian string instrument I my late father used to play when I was a child.

Soon after we were home from the airport, my son asked if he could bring down the old tar from the shelf. No one had touched it for years and now three of its six strings were broken. Also out of tune, the sound that came out of that old tar was pathetic, at best.

Once again manifesting his undying enthusiasm, I didn’t have the heart to tell him he was playing it all wrong. So I searched the YouTube and found him a nice performance by a master of tar. While I typed, he watched. Halfway through the piece I noticed the music sounded much better. I stopped my typing and looked to find him accompanying the musician—three broken strings and all – in the best performance of Morgh-e-Sahar that I have ever heard!

Unfamiliar with Persian music he knows even less about that piece, but his ears and his hands follow the command of music, enabling him to follow and become part of it, a natural flow of talent that a BA in philosophy failed to stump.

We aren’t the first parents to impel our child, or rob him of a unique opportunity in the name of sound advice. In a perfect world, I would have earned a degree in creative writing, my lawyer daughter would be a dancer, and my son might enjoy a PhD program at Berklee. Now filled with remorse, I can only hope that he will find a suitable program to further his musical studies, open new doors, and forgive his parents for committing what could only be categorized as parental sin.

Zohreh Ghahremani is the author of Sky of Red Poppies, available now. U.S. book tour stops and information here.


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more from Ghahremani

philosophers won't let go of their main passion

by Monda on

Dear Ghahremani, something tells me your son will continue with his music, all his life. Having a degree in other areas will only help him support himself while he trains to become a professional musician. There are many seriously accomplished musicians out there who had to pursue other fields in order to survive as a musician (Sting, as one example, was an English teacher before he put together The Police... not implying your son would want to be Sting). 

As parents it is our responsibility to guide our children to be aware of life's realities, just like you did. Don't worry, he doesn't sound like he will let go of his natural talents and calling. He only allowed himself, with your help, to test the validity and intensity of his real passion. So, let's just consider the possibility that it wasn't only you who pushed him into trying other realms, perhaps it was necessary for your son to give a non-music major, a shot.

Good thing that you didn't influence him into getting a BS in Economics or Engineering! Philosophy, only adds depth to a musical career and matches his sensitive passionate soul, beautifully.

As a friendly advice, please stop projecting Your remorse on your son :o) For him, at his age, sky's the limit.

Enjoy your writing and insights. 



How could you?

by divaneh on

Philosophy and English? Philosophy and English? Not Medicine, Engineering or law? You may have as well allowed him to study music. Since when the philosophers have been the money churners?

I enjoyed his music and am sure that he will follow what is right for him. Here is a link to another talented Iranian musician that this week appeared in IC.



I Could Have Been Somebody

by Faramarz on

Ms. Ghahremani,

Please let your kids follow their passion and dreams. Most of us who came here to become doctors, businessmen and engineers succeeded in doing that but compromised our passion and love for other things. Fortunately, in the west one can do both; pursue his dreams and become successful as well.

Every time this topic comes up, I think of the famous scene by Marlon Brando from the movie "On the Waterfront!"

Best of luck to him and lots of patience to you!




He is pretty good.

by Anonymouse on

When I said playing in restaurants I meant better ones where Jr High kids can't play!  But I know what you mean.

He is obviously very good. This clip is a school project and probably somewhat restricted but he can play.  The only question is what is he going to do with it.  He may have some ideas of his own or he may limit it to play for friends and family.  He may also be able to open for some of JJJ's concerts!  Wish you all good luck!

Everything is sacred



by Ghahremani on

Thank you for caring. He majored in philosophy, which actually suits his serene character. I must say, he passed the stages you mentioned when he was in junior high and today is quite an accomplished musician/composer. You may enjoy this sample:


The performance, humane message, and especially his guitar towards the end gave me chills! Not as his mother, but simply as someone who appreciates true art.


A very good heartfelt story!

by Anonymouse on

I don't know what he has studied but seems like he still plays music so he can always have a career in music.  There are many American or Iranian bands who are always looking for a player.  He may even want to consider a solo career.

It may sound crazy but why not on his breaks or summer take a job at a restaurant or some place similar playing music?  He can always give it a try and make some money.  Money is not the point, the chance to play for an audience is the point.

There are many restaurants who'll be willing to take a chance and provide some live entertainment for their patrons.  Just a thought. 

Everything is sacred