Tuesday, May 22, 2012

i don't want to be a soccer mom

I've always said that the two things my kids wouldn't have a choice about growing up would be learning to swim and taking piano lessons. I've always thought those were two vital skills for a person to have. Swimming is obvious, since knowing how can mean the difference between life and death should one find oneself in a body of water. And piano? Well, I'm clearly biased, since that's what I do and all. I could make 1000 arguments for my kids taking piano lessons, but chief among them is that I want my children to know something about my profession and appreciate the importance of music (and, by extension, the arts in general) in our culture.

Come to think of it, swimming and piano lessons  were two consistents throughout my childhood. No wonder I want the same for my children!

Swimming is great. We've joined a pool the last three summers or so, and my kids love taking lessons and I love swimming laps while they take lessons, and it's working out just...well...swimmingly.

The music stuff is a different story.

Thus far, my children don't seem especially musically adept. When Daniel started kindergarten this past fall, for  example, we were treated to many tuneless renditions of "My Country 'Tis of Thee," which the kids sing every morning after the Pledge of Allegiance. His sense of pitch has improved somewhat, but I think we can safely say he's far from being the next Pavarotti. Anya's in the same boat. She does love to sing, the enthusiasm is certainly there, but even in simple tunes like the ABC song she inadvertently changes keys several times.

It's okay, really. I'm told by a friend who teaches music in an elementary school that sometimes that sense of pitch comes later (though I've heard plenty of kids younger than mine sing "Twinkle, Twinkle" with waaaay more accuracy, and I'm trying not to feel demoralized by that). It's fine if my kids aren't fabulously talented. I never was, in fact.  It's just that by the time I started college I had decided that playing the piano was what I liked better than anything else, so that's what I majored in. I got by because I worked hard and could handle the academic side of things pretty well, too. (I kind of wish someone would have mentioned how finding a job later would be nearly impossible, and maybe suggested that I pick up a second major in something practical, but no one did. In fact, I ended up barely squeezing out a German major, which was fun and interesting and useful for the music stuff...but see above re: employability. I'm afraid that by now my Deutsch skills are pretty rusty, too.)

I'm getting totally sidetracked here. My point is this: Daniel is 6 years old, finishing up kindergarten, and I think it's about time he started piano lessons. The trouble is, he doesn't agree. I know better than to teach him myself; that would be a big, fat, huge mistake of epic proportions that would probably significantly damage our relationship. But even when I suggest that we meet some piano teachers and find a good one with a personality that clicks with his, he's resistant to the idea. "No, mom, I just don't want to," he says when I ask.

Are you ready for this? He'd rather play soccer. And the thing is, he'd probably be pretty good at it. Daniel is a fast runner, very coordinated, has good endurance and enough physical assertiveness that he'd probably do more than stare at the ball and wait for it to jump into the goal on its own like I did when I tried playing soccer at his age.

I haven't signed him up for anything soccer-related yet, partly because I'm not sure where to start but mostly because I'm not ready to go down that road. I know a lot of kids who play soccer, including a few who are quite good at it, and I know how it completely takes over their lives and their parents' lives. (Two of them are my piano students.  Let me just say it is entirely clear to me where their priorities lie.)

After finding a promising lead on a good piano teacher in the area, I asked Daniel again what he thinks about piano lessons. "I'd rather play soccer," he replied. I died a little inside, but simply asked "Why?" He thought a minute before he replied, "Because then I can run around and stuff and that sounds more fun."

There it is. If you were a gregarious and active little boy, given the choice between running around with a bunch of friends and playing a sport that everyone knows about and appreciates with a crowd cheering you on, versus sitting alone at a piano, what would you choose? Soccer, of course. In what world is playing the piano more fun than soccer if you're a kid like Daniel? Bizarro world, maybe.

I'm so doomed. I don't want to be the pushy parent, I don't expect him to be some dedicated and great musician if that's not his destiny, but I want him to learn and it's killing me that I'm meeting resistance already before he's even started.

6 comments:

Steph said...

If Daniel is meant to play piano, he's hardly going to hurt for chances to show his interest in your house. What if you drop it for a year and see what happens? A year won't make that much difference in the grand scheme of things. Remember how quickly you picked up the flute when you decided you wanted to play it, despite being 2 years behind everyone else? I know you had a lot of music under your belt at that point and that made a difference, but I guess my larger point is that if there is one thing Daniel is likely to have inherited from both parents, it's the propensity to pick things up quickly when he's enthusiastic about them. Of course, if you think he needs the daily discipline of practicing at this stage, and/or you want to make sure he learns good pitch while he's still very young, that's another matter. Tough call. (Yes, he is a super runner. Whether he plays soccer or not, I will race him again when we come in July. He may be able to beat his auntie by now. :) )

Orlandel said...

Jerry wanted Duwayne to hunt with him. Really, really bad. He started at age 4, but Duwayne didn't want to. By age 5, a mention of hunting would send Duwayne to his room with some imagined illness. At age 7, Jerry gave up. When our granddaughter turned 6, she asked to go hunting - totally unexpectedly. Now Duwayne is more than ready to go with his dad - and his niece. Sometimes it has to be someone else's fun that makes them want to do something. Sometimes it just takes time. And sometimes it's totally unexpected.

Jessi said...

First of all, have you seen this: http://xkcd.com/1052/. I think we can both agree.

Secondly, I'm not sure that it's like this everywhere, but around here, that's what the Y is for. Brynna took gymnastics with YMCA for $45 and 7 weeks. Hated it, but all we lost was $45 and all we suffered was 7 weeks. You know, I've been through this with the cheerleading thing, and I can genuinely say that I'm glad I let her try it. And I'm more glad that she is now, officially, so over it.

Good luck. I know what a challenge this can be.

On another note: I may have a kid in soccer, that does not make me a soccer mom. Just keep repeating that.

Claire said...

I was never asked if I wanted to take piano and I took from the same teacher kindergarten through graduation. My parents' approach was, "this is what we do, because it's important." They also let me do sporty things, but music was made a priority. However, every cousin on my dad's side and my brother were already learning at least 1 instrument, so I think that totally helped. Ben will start violin in the fall (from Monroe St), if you want to hash out strategies together. :) Also, there's a Madison Children's choir that I plan to sign up for in second grade.

katie said...

I hear your struggle with wanting to give a child an appreciation for music. I think our culture pushes it too early (like academics these days), and that it's not at all too late to wait for private music lessons until 7 or 8. Their attention span is more appropriate, they are more aware of what it takes to learn an instrument, and they can take more responsibility. Earlier than that should be play-based, IM (reserached) O. Some things you could try: explore other instruments, let him try some out, expose him to lots of options. Here, the Suzuki institute has an annual concert with all the instruments, and it's just amazing for kids to see kids performing on instruments. Otherwise, they have no vision for the possibility. With your situation, I have no doubt that Daniel is exposed to some wonderful music played by you. However, he may also understand that it is your work, and he may be able to distinguish that from fun. If you want to start this early, I'd check out Suzuki, and take Daniel to watch some group classes or concerts to see what kids can do and see what instrument he's drawn to. I know some people feel like piano is a must because it teaches basic music skills that help with theory later. That was true for me. But, our experience with our second child is that when she learns guitar by ear (Suzuki), she easily and enthusiastically figures the songs out on piano. That's all they need now. They can learn the rest later.

I think our job at this stage of our kids' lives is to allow them to explore lots of things and discover for themselves what makes them happy. Our family's norm is to encourage something physical and something musical. Since our girls both hate competition, their physical has been dance and gymnastics.

Sorry if I got long-winded. This is very close to the topic of my dissertation, so I have a lot of opinions.

Pam said...

When I was Daniel's age, I was taking piano lessons and playing soccer. I didn't love the piano lessons, but I am SO glad now that I took them and actually wish I had worked harder. I loved loved loved playing soccer and I'm really glad I did it then because when I got older, it got more competitive and I didn't really enjoy that, so I stopped playing. The fun thing about the community soccer league I was in as a kid was that it was fun and not super intense and competitive. I agree that you do the piano lessons because it's like brushing your teeth and eating your vitamins, but I think you can also do the soccer and it won't make you a soccer mom. :-)