Thursday, July 5, 2012

Another Parenting Discussion

 Calvin had his first piano lesson this week.
 He is excited to learn out of his very own book.
 He learned how to sit in the "I'm great!" pose. Nice and tall. He can even balance a teddy bear on his head while he plays.
He learned about making short sounds and long sounds. We listened to the looooong sounds for a looooong time.

There is much discussion to be had on the subject of extracurricular endeavors. Some parents believe in unstructured play and learning, and that over-scheduling a child is detrimental to their development. Some parents believe that challenging their children to learn new skills as a musician, artist, or athlete teaches them to work hard and boosts their confidence. My philosophy incorporates both ideas. I do believe that it is important to let my boys play on their own for a good stretch of time; it fosters creativity and problem solving. Some of my best times as a kid happened when "pretending" with my friends or cousins. I had an especially good time with my cousin Megan as we princesses tried to escape our evil stepmother, the queen, or the wicked witch. We rode bicycle horses and explored strange and beautiful lands under her walnut tree.

But during the summer, when my friends' days were completely open, I was expected to complete an hour of piano practicing before I could play. Sometimes I resented it, yes. But I also found enjoyment in music. Through the years, I learned that, even though a piece may seem daunting at first, I was capable of learning hard things if I would just drill the tough spots and dedicate my time and energy on the piano bench. Thanks to a strong foundation on the piano, I was able to pick up the violin relatively quickly. Orchestra became my team sport.

This week, I attended a lunch meeting with some colleagues, all of whom are elite musicians and teachers, much more experienced than I am. Interestingly, most of them agreed that, although (or maybe because) they are all professional musicians, they do not desire their own children to become professional musicians. However, they still plan to place their children in music lessons. I told them that I was planning to give the punk his very first piano lesson that very day. My man and I aim to give our boys access to different areas of education - baseball, golf, soccer, art, piano, maybe cello, or even drums - and then let them decide what they like. This opinion was met with a bit of friction. Someone commented, "You can't expect children to work hard on their own. They don't get to choose to play or not to play!" Although I think I was a bit misunderstood, I didn't care to defend myself at that time. But let me explain here.

When I was a young girl, my mom put me in dance classes. Of course she did! She used to be a dancer herself, and she found great joy in the art. However, it turns out that I am a terrible dancer. Although I excelled at tap (I got rhythm, man!), I was the very worst in my class at ballet and jazz. It is my conviction that I am in the bottom 5% of all humans when it comes to flexibility. I cried and complained every time I had to go to class. It wasn't until after I quit that I finally figured out how to spread my toes apart, and I still don't understand why a ballerina has to have that skill. My point is that I am grateful that my mom had the understanding to let me quit something that I just didn't like. I was not required to follow in her dance steps. But because she saw that I had the skills of a musician, she did require that I stick with my piano, and later violin, lessons, even when they got hard. Even in the summer when all my other friends were playing. She gave me access to options, allowed me to choose, and then made me stick with it.


Presidential Players said...

I totally agree! Well said!

kolbie anne said...

We led a very similar childhood... haha.

Diana W. Windley said...

Great post...well written. I enjoy your insights into parenting.

Not to highjack your blog, but I came across this article the other day and think it's worth sharing.

It goes along with your post about expectations for our kids.

Megan said...

I wish we were at the cabin right now searching for the perfect hide out!
I think if you know your children as individuals and aren't too lazy or selfish you'll do the right thing.

Meili said...

Thanks for the article, Diana. My favorite part was, "When adults praise children for seemingly in-born characteristics like being smart, it creates the opposite effect. Children become less willing to take on challenges because they don't want to risk losing their label of smartness."

Mellisa's Moments..... said...

Great post! Here's my challenge and you may face this later down the road and I am stumped: What do you do when your child wants to do it ALL? My 8 year old LOVES dancing and LOVES her piano classes and has recently decided that violin lessons are a MUST along with an extra dance class! She is awesome with music and picks it up rather quickly (I think that's her natural talent) however with dance, she's like her mother, and I'm like you (in that bottom 5%). I won't keep her from dancing because she loves it, even though that isn't something that comes natural to her like music but, do I let her pick up all the extra classes she wants? Do I indulge her desire to learn new things? When I explain to her that she needs to have friend time she tells me that she doesn't need to have friend time that all she wants to do is learn new things! I'm totally stumped...

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