If you have taught youth sports or band or anything involving youngun+activity, you know THAT parent. The one who has a less than healthy interest in their precious snookums’ participation in the activity (think Toddlers and Tiaras, but with less mascara and overall creepiness). Making the kid play an instrument because it would be good for him/her, or because aforementioned parent was first chair accordion, or for another line on the college application. I used to see it all the time, both as a band director and as a flute teacher, and I always swore I’d never be like that. To this day I haven’t crossed that line, continuing to parent more in the flavor of “benign neglect.”
I’m struggling mightily, folks.
Tonight is the school’s band/orchestra Dog and Pony Show, where the teacher introduces the instruments to 4th and 5th graders and gets them enrolled. In Colorado, instrumental music often doesn’t begin until 6th grade (don’t even get me started on why that is a bad idea), so we missed out last year. I have done enough of these intro to instruments meetings to do them in my sleep, and tonight I probably will. It’ll be the only way I’ll be at an instrumental introduction this year.
A flat-out refuses to play an instrument.
This hurts a lot more than I thought it would. Between the two of us, Tom and I have 14 years of higher education in music. We both taught band, both count our years playing as some of the best of our lives…for God’s sake, we met at band camp. Yes, please, make the jokes. So to have a child who could play three partials on a trumpet at age three refuse to join band is another twist of the knife that particular child inserted into my heart years ago. It’s doubly painful because he is a natural musician, and it ain’t mama talkin’ here, it’s the music teacher. He can sing on pitch, he can keep perfect rhythm, and he’s been able to do that for years. But he refuses. Won’t even discuss it.
He is in no extra-curricular activities. While a lot of kids are painfully over scheduled, he is woefully under scheduled. He is in nothing beyond Cub Scouts, and that is non-negotiable. Say what you will about their policies, and I’ll politely listen, but it’s good for him and he’s not dropping. Period. But no sports, no clubs, no music, no nuttin’. He briefly mentioned last week that he was considering running for Student Council and I nearly dislocated my jaw when it hit the floor and bounced several times. Haven’t heard a peep about it since.
I used to take A to Mommy & Me classes, or to various activities. He would go a few times and then refuse to go ever again…and if you think I was just caving in to keep the peace, you’re absolutely right. He is The Most Stubborn Child On The Planet and in a battle of wills I had to let it go. Eating and sleeping and school and behavior and things of those sort were the hills I was willing to die on, not dropping running club or karate. Eventually I quit taking him or offering to sign him up for something. Easier on both my psyche and wallet.
He’s getting to the age where friends are where the activities are, and with a new school, I worry about his lack of involvement. It’ll create a few dozen new grey hairs next year when he’s in middle school (ohsweetbabyJesusonrollerbladesmiddleschool!). I want to push him past his comfort zone and make him do something, but I’m not sure I have the intestinal fortitude for the follow through. It’s one thing to sign the kid up for band, it’s something entirely different to enforce daily practice (I believe if you’re eating, you’re practicing…you may skip any day you’re puking in a bucket). And battles need to be saved for homework and school projects.
Sigh…I don’t know.
So I’m going to let band go. And it hurts, so very much. If, however, he hops off the bus in a few minutes saying he changed his mind because his new friend is signing up for band…well, I’ll have him in the car and over to the demo before the words can dissipate over his head.
But I won’t be THAT parent.
If you’re here from yesterday’s 2e Newsletter link, welcome! You have no idea my shock when I discovered they’d linked here. I think I may have squealed, I certainly sat with my jaw dropped, and I am honored they linked up.