As parents, we try to produce well-rounded children. Sports seems to be high on the list of activities to encourage, as is trying to nurture a love of reading and exposure to musical instruments. I am guilty of suggesting my children try different things. They all briefly played a sport but nothing got any of them particularly excited. So, I became one of the masses who signed their kids up for music lessons, hoping they’d become concert pianists or at least raise their IQ a few points.
I’m not sure why so many people force the issue and make their children play, even when they obviously don’t like it. Neither my husband or I play the piano. I played the flute for a few years and he played the trumpet, both while we were younger children. We each have fond memories but neither of us continued as teenagers or adults. For some reason, it seems that many adults regret: a) never having learned how to read music or play an instrument or b) not being forced by their parents to continue playing into adulthood.
We bought a used upright piano several years ago and all four of our children have taken lessons. Numbers 1 and 4 petered out after several months. They have similar temperaments and couldn’t bear the frustration and inability to be immediately perfect.
Numbers 2 and 3 have been playing for about seven years.
Now that I’m on the parent side of this equation, I get why parents don’t force their children to continue. It’s because the constant nagging and negotiating to get them to practice is unpleasant. When the nag/playing ratio becomes too uneven, lessons should stop, in my opinion.
Fortunately my piano players are in a good place and practice willingly, at least most of the time. It is truly music to my ears, both literally and figuratively. My seventeen-year-old has limited capabilities due to his genetic disorder and spends lots of time on various screens so his piano playing gives me an especially great joy.
In the past, he was not always so focused on his music. Maybe I pushed him a little harder because his playing made me happy.
“Are the piano lessons for him or for you?” my husband asked.
“Maybe a little of both,” I confessed. So what?
Then there are the recitals. I find these to be one of the sweeter benefits of being a parent. I love the piano recitals. I love watching all the kids, not just my own. I love seeing the kids dressed up, girls in fancy dresses with bows in their hair and boys often wearing “high-waters” – clearly dragged from the back of the closet from the last time they needed nice clothes. I like hearing the little kids plunking out tunes all the way up to the extremely talented children. Really, an hour is about the length of my attention span for classical music so it suits me perfectly.
My fourteen-year-old had a recital a few weeks ago. He didn’t know the piece as well as he would have liked, but I didn’t care. I was proud to see him get up there and perform. That’s part of the whole package of playing an instrument – working on something to make it better and having the confidence to get up and be vulnerable in a room full of people.
I read that “music is well said to be the speech of angels.” Lucky me – sometimes it feels like I have a little bit of heaven in my own house.