Without fail, after the lesson with her beloved teacher, my 8 year old loves violin. Without fail, after a recital she also loves violin. Without fail, when she plays with other kids who play violin, and they have fun together, she is swelling with pride about her ability.
this video is too dark, but you can hear the older one playing.
But all the rest of the time, which is after school every day, she hates the violin. Sometimes, like today when she figured out a Shakira song, she likes it again. The rest of the time, however, it elicits groans, complaint and argument.
And I could not possibly list all the reasons why I persist to her because it turns into more fuel for an argument I have no remote desire to engage.
I don’t mention the time I told a parent I wanted to play saxophone and they told me to save my $3 a week allowance. How I went to the Seattle Times classifieds to see how long I would have to save to be able to afford one– at this time the price was about $150 dollars. Were I not also bad at math, I might have calculated the precise number of weeks it would take, but I settled with infinity. It would take infinity weeks to save that amount was the answer in my 10 year old brain. Actually I knew it would take about a year, but that might as well have been infinity at the age of ten. Perhaps I gave up too easily, but at the age of 10 the word perseverance had no meaning to me.
Because that isn’t maybe the main reason why.
Maybe it is because my ear for music over my life has meant that I can remember all the lyrics just about every song I ever heard more than once when I was under the age of 15. My kids don’t doubt this, as they endure my catalog knowledge of music from the 70’s and 80’s usually transmogrified to reinforce the necessity of doing something (“Call me” by Blondie turns into “Laundry!” and so many other abuses of popular music I couldn’t possibly begin) . Or something reminds me, like the book today called “If I were a Penguin” which sent me singing Fiddler on the Roof “If I were a rich man (ya da da da da de dade da).
Maybe its the bag of tricks that I have learned can surprise others with your ability and might save ones bacon in the tight spots of life, but that doesn’t resonate with an 8 year old.
Maybe its the peer group that can be found in the music she shares with others in high school, the doors it opens for playing any other musical instrument or the parts of the brain that it activates. Maybe its the experience of being persistent in itself, maybe its that during the season in our life when everything else slipped and looked far from the way it should optimally, there was still this work fine tuning the dynamics, tempo, tone and other details to make these songs sound Just Right, as if a bookmark to say “see, it is possible to get at least this one thing right,”
Maybe its my way of occupying them with something beautiful so that as they look for something to do with their time, they aren’t adrift on a sea of internet, tv and gaming temptations.
Maybe its to help introduce them to the ability to get up in front of a crowd and perform that which they have carefully crafted and practiced.
Maybe it is so that they can earn money by playing on the street, which they have done and seems to be a rather lucrative proposition.
Maybe it is practice for persisting until something is truly accomplished, without giving up halfway through.
Maybe there is a small hope in my mind that some day they will delight others with that which they can do on the violin, or maybe some other instrument, as they have learned to read music.
Maybe all these things just trail off because most of them are far too complex to explain to an 8 year old brain who mostly just wants to watch cartoons for hours rather than spend 15 minutes on a few scales and songs… and the response gets boiled down to
“Are you done complaining? Okay, go get your violin.”
It is likely the only thing that I require of them on a daily basis, as if it were a stitch holding everything together. A stitch, clearly, filled with much hope and hard work.