Saturday, March 28, 2015

Another Excellent Moment in Parenting: Music Lessons or The Unfair Comparison

My husband is a self-taught drummer. His father is a self-taught drummer. Adam grew up with music and people playing music. He went to concerts at a young age - the Bee Gee's was his first one.

I played the clarinet (badly) for one year. And the hand bells in a church bell choir (which I think probably gives you a pretty good idea of what kind of kid I was). And I grew up in a house with one Crystal Gayle record.

All of this to say, in matters of music education, I leave the heavy-lifting to Adam. And Adam wanted the kids to learn how to read music and so we put our son in piano. He didn't love it, but he really seemed to 'get it.' So we were encouraged.

However over the summer our son started to really get into music and he had some pretty eclectic taste - Peter Gabriel, The Talking Heads, Kiss and Bruno Mars. He didn't want to play piano anymore, he wanted to play bass guitar. Probably because he wanted to be Gene Simmons.

Whatever, he was making choices and so we went with bass in the new year.

We have a very wonderful music school in our neighborhood and the bass teacher is a pretty funky guy who plays in a jazz band and tours with a blue grass band and I can't quite meet his eyes because he's cute. And our son really likes him and he seems to like our son  - so yay! High fives all the way around.

Adam and I take very little convincing that our son is going to be a very cool bass-playing kid. He was probably going to be a musical genius. How could he not? We were doing everything right!


A few months went by - things seemed great. Adam and I got in the practice of dropping our son off at the lesson and running errands. So we weren't hanging out outside the door of the lessons. Practice at home was going pretty well. Not that I know, really, anything about the bass guitar. Hand bells, sure... bass guitar, not so much. But it seemed to be going well.

Until one day I dropped our son off and then went to pick up our daughter to a friend's house.  As we climb the steps to the house I hear this amazing classical piano music. And I think - well they are amazing parents too, playing classical music while the girls probably color or something.

I knock on the door, the music stops and the eleven year old sister to my daughter's friend answers the door. I am stunned. Shocked - I had no idea she could play like that.

I'm invited in by the girl's grandmother and I ask to hear another song. The grandmother goes and gets me a glass of orange juice, some cookies and a box of Kleenex (I think she's politely telling me I have a booger and quickly blow my nose.) She selects a song for her grand daughter to play. I sit. The girl begins to play and...

It's insane. It's powerful and passionate and HARD. Her little-girl fingers are all over that piano, they are a blur. And she's eleven.

By the second bar I'm in tears. And I can't stop. I am clutching tissues to my face. Guzzling orange juice to replenish my suddenly drastically depleted liquids.

She makes a little mistake and that somehow makes it worse. Because she's so gifted but she's also eleven. The grandmother turns the page of the music and then leaves her hand on the girl's shoulder and she's clearly so proud. And I cry harder.

The song ends and the girl turns to me and I clap and apologize because I am a snotty teary mess.
"It's all right," she says, "It happens a lot."

Because she's eleven. And she's got a gift.

I left that house, eyes swollen, my pockets full of Kleenex,  literally aglow with the beauty of the world. With the power of music. In love with kids and their untapped talents. In love with my own kid, who was on that same musical path. Who I was sure - utterly convinced - was only moments away from such an impressive display.

I went to go pick up my son and I was early so I would get to hear a bit of his lesson. And I was excited about that. Excited to see my son's growing relationship to music and to his individual talent and taste as a young artist. I was excited to listen through the door as he struggled and practiced and got better. I told myself to be realistic. To not make unfair comparisons.

I thought I was prepared.

I let myself into the basement where the studio was and I was barely through the door when I heard the teacher's voice saying. "Hey, hey buddy...please. PLEASE! Stop rolling around on the ground."

He couldn't be talking to my kid. Could he?

I peeked through the window in the door and there he was - my musical prodigy - rolling around on the floor, singing the KISS classic - I Want To Rock And Roll All Night, in a strange duck voice.

Right. Yes.

We got home, had a long conversation about how to behave in lessons. And after we put him to bed Adam and I had a long laugh. What else are you going to do?

1 comment:

MacJoyful said...

What a wonderful, moving story! Your son is gifted. You'll see.

My father, his sister, his mother and maternal grandparents and uncle were gifted with the ability to create and share their love of music. My son is a gifted artist. When one has a gift whether it's music, art or writing books, it needs to be shared because those of us mere mortals are allowed to go where we can not go on our own.