The Beatles Song That Taught Me A Powerful Parenting Lesson

My nine-year-old son had a great time at the Paul McCartney concert my wife and I took him to see. It was full of flashing lights, pyrotechnics, psychedelic videos and familiar classics that we had listened to a lot together. We took my son because he would always be able to say he saw a Beatle perform live, which took on added significance recently with the release of the "Eight Days a Week" documentary. The songwriting legend managed to hold his attention for three hours.

After that night, he relived the show many times by reciting his memories of it and reprising the music. But I also came away with a lasting impression, albeit an unexpected one: a simple yet powerful lesson from one of the songs.

Around the time of the McCartney show, my son and I started playing video games together when we had a spare moment: We raced cars, kicked soccer balls or shot at each other with tanks. I played video games as a way to stay in touch with him, just as Mr. McCartney performed a song he wrote for a video game as a way to stay in touch with today's youth.

I was not good at the games: I crashed the cars, kicked the balls over nets and misfired tank shells. My son almost always won. Video games barely existed when I was his age in the early 1970s -- Pong was considered cutting-edge -- but they're in his generation's DNA.

He played for fun in his patient, easygoing manner. I, however, let my utter lack of skill get the best of me. I tried to laugh it off, but instead I took it far too seriously by way of self-criticism, instead of praising my son. It was as if I was playing a "beat 'em up" game against myself. He picked up on this right away.

"Why are you getting frustrated?" he asked repeatedly and rightfully. I wasn't having fun, so he wasn't having fun.

Afterward, I was wracked with guilt. Was the grownup acting childishly? Of course I was. Was I being a terrible role model? Of course I was. He was always so positive, and I was so negative. What kind of a lesson was that to teach?

It had to stop. I couldn't just change avatars; I needed to do something sincere. So I decided to take a couple of small but concrete steps to help me turn this precious time together back into a positive experience for him.

One step was a simple cash incentive: I told Nicholas that I'll give him 50 cents every time I act frustrated. That can quickly turn into a lot of money for a 9-year-old and a lot of humiliation for a parent. I was using small change to make a big change.

But I also recalled the McCartney concert, and one Beatles classic in particular. I'd probably heard the recording of "Let It Be" a hundred times, but somehow hearing Mr. McCartney sing it live, as he played his black grand piano, struck a chord. I should let it be; being a good role model for my son is infinitely more important than silly video games.

To remind myself, I printed out an image I found online that read "Keep calm and let it be," superimposed on photos of the Beatles. I taped it to my desk blotter so I had to look at it every day.

I soon had a breakthrough moment: I started to laugh at my video game ineptitude, and so did my son. Did I lose again? Over and over, but I didn't care (which earned me extra points by keeping my financial losses to a minimum).

The catchphrase remained on my desk, and when I found myself in times of trouble, my rudimentary, homemade reminder came to me, speaking words of wisdom: Let it be.

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