It turns out my stepfather did know best. I was never asked to join Guns ‘n Roses to become the band’s bass guitarist.
To be honest, I wasn’t a huge Guns n’ Roses fan and Duff McKagan was still in the band so there was no vacancy. I also secretly knew my bass guitar playing skills weren’t really up to the job. Nonetheless, the teenage John had received the message loud and clear: I wasn’t going to become a musician and I definitely wasn’t going to become a rock star.
That probably sounds harsh. As parents the prevailing logic is that you encourage your children in their pursuits and interests and mine was music.
Even so, I simply wasn’t applying myself to learning the instrument. I should have been practicing for hours every day, going to rehearsals, having lessons and so on.
I wasn’t and I didn’t. I’d get bored after a few minutes of practice and I made no effort to learn how to read music. No, I was never destined to be a rock star.
The Guns ‘n Roses message was delivered to me while my mother and stepfather held court at the dining table. I can’t quite remember what my misdemeanor was to have been summoned in this way to explain myself. This type of thing only happened in the most serious of circumstances. I think I was 16 years of age and suspect it was the day my appalling GCSE results came in.
I should have done a lot better than I did. Despite warnings from my parents, I hadn’t applied myself to my studies. I was fortunate, very fortunate. Despite being brutally told my rock star dreams were coming to nothing, I came from a background prosperous enough to enable me to have another go.
I spent a year at an adult education college taking GCSEs, second time around getting considerably better grades. I then did A-levels and promptly fell off the radar again, spending several years in dead-end jobs before entering the higher education system, all the while my parents pointing out that I could be doing better and doing other things. Needless to say, I knew my big achievement, whatever it was, would be around the next corner.
Now I’m much older, I find myself wishing I had listened to my parents more when I was younger. It’s a difficult thing to have to admit, but sometimes my mother and stepfather were actually right and they did know best.
I didn’t work hard enough and I didn’t apply myself. The consequences were several years where I watched my peers go achieve things with their lives whereas I simply bummed around.
No, I can’t tell you that my parents were correct about everything. I’d have liked to have had a more open relationship with them when younger, one where feelings and relationships could be openly discussed at home.
Not, you understand, that I’m singling out and criticising my parents by saying that. It was a different era and I’m sure most of my peers could say the same. In fact some of them had it considerably worse than I did.
School was a foreign entity to the majority of mums and dads with most barely entering the playground, let alone speaking to the teachers. There was no parent / school partnership. Mums and dads only seemed to visit school on parent’s evening or if there was a problem. You had your world and the adults had theirs and the two did not mix.
Now I am a father myself, I hope that my kids will listen to Mrs Adams and I. I hope they will respect us enough to appreciate that sometimes, just sometimes, mum and dad are correct and know best.
I can see I have a totally different relationship with my kids. I spend more time with them, I spend more time at school and I always encourage them to speak about friendship issues or anything that may be upsetting them. Out worlds are intertwined. Yes, kept at a respectful distance when appropriate, but we have much stronger links with each other than mums and dads did when I was Helen and Izzy’s age.
I’d like to think they would listen to Mrs Adams and I if we thought they weren’t applying themselves at school or if we could see them getting involved with a toxic friendship. I’m realistic to the fact they won’t listen to us all the time and will, as they get older, have to make their own mistakes and make their own way in the world.
I just hope they listen to us about the big stuff. The 15-year-old John would recoil in horror at me admitting this, but, sometimes, just sometimes, mum and dad are correct.
Of course what really worries me is that either of my kids shows any interest in learning the bass guitar. The six string, fine, but bass, come one, they could do better than that, right?