Getting off the fence

Being a parent means that you have to get off that comfortable picket fence (the one with the white pickets impaling your ass) and choose a side. It starts as soon as you are pregnant.Doctor or midwife? Breast milk or formula? Cloth or disposable? Then, when they are babies and toddlers you have to decide (okay let’s be honest- sometimes your kid decides for you.) Do they sleep in the parental bed or in their own crib? Soother or no soother? These all-important issues are agonized over by most parents. They are discussed earnestly at playgroups and many of them are so controversial that fights rivaling the Israeli-Palestine situation break out in the parks around our nation and parents begin to form factions. It gets ugly, I tell you.

Now, as my kids get older, the decisions are still hard, still explosive. Do I let them decide what they want to wear? Do I let them come home from school alone (we already know where I stand on that one)? Do I act like a helicopter and hover over them while they do their homework? Should I force them to practice the piano even though it might be kill any love of music in them?

That picket fence is looking like an overstuffed LA-Z Boy chair right now.

The reason I am writing this is because of this last question. Piano practicing. My mother was one of those who stood very firmly on the side of the fence where you will do it because I say so. In fact, she built a little garden on that side of the fence and embellished it with more little rules like- not only will you practice everyday, but you will do it before school. Which meant that I got up at 6 am everyday to practice my piano. Of course, being a single mother and needing her run- she would always be out when we practiced. And she didn’t know how to play the piano, so my sisters and I tended to cheat quite a bit.

I swore I would never do that to my own kids. Yeah. Famous last words. Because the more I think about it, the more my adult brain takes over with pesky logic. Do I hate music? No. Am I scarred for life for having to get up so early to practice my piano? Um, no. In fact, getting up early means that I tend to get more done in a day. Am I grateful that I can read music? Adamantly so. It even helped me get a job once.

I have no illusions about my kids being virtuosos. Their enthusiasm is lukewarm at best when it comes to playing the piano and many times it comes to tears of frustration as they struggle to pick their way through a song. And yet, I am not willing for them to give it up. There are so few things in their life where they have to persist even when the going gets tough and so few things that will be as rewarding as being able to make beautiful music. I want them to know how it feels to work hard at something, to be persistent. I want them to know how to soldier on through the hard bits. So I am jumping off the fence, and standing beside my mother on this one. Perhaps I will also grow a garden with nice little Fascist rules sprouting all over the place.

Now, if only I could get the slivers of doubt out of my rear end…

2 thoughts on “Getting off the fence

  1. ok. this is the 3rd time I'm trying to write this. Google keeps on refusing me.

    1. Do you have this same problem when it comes to swimming or ballet? Maybe they truly do HATE piano.

    2. It's really hard as a kid to see that hard work pays off (for example, do you still play the piano regularly?), plus adults tell kids all sorts of fucked up lies (there is a santa, there is a god, those girls are mean to you because they are jealous, etc.) so it's hard to believe them, sometimes.

    3. Can you find any age-appropriate biographies of musicians who are now successful but talk about how they had to start at the beginning when they were kids?

    4. Do you expose them to cool piano music and point out the cool piano/keyboard sounds (new wave anything, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Regina Spektor, even those assholes Tori Amos or Fiona Apple… Sarah McLaughlan)?

  2. 6 am piano practise.

    I had that too.

    It must have been a bit later as I had a paper route.

    Oh, the horror… the horror. Those -40 mornings followed by piano practise for 30 minutes and then breakfast and school in home made jeans.

    My mom never ran anywhere.

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