Saturday, February 5, 2011
The Piano Dilemma
Recently, we acquired my parent's piano. Baker was incredibly excited to learn to play. He talked for months about taking piano, telling anyone who would listen of his plans. And then lessons started. It was a fight to get him to practice. At first, I chalked it up to timing. We started lessons right before Christmas and there were so many other things going on. But after things settled down, the fighting continued. Then he started fighting about going to the lessons. I told him if he didn't start practicing, we would just stop. I really don't need another thing to fight with him about.
As a child, about Baker's age, I took piano for a year. Like me, my mother had to fight with me about practicing. And, like me, my mother chose to stop lessons rather then force me to practice. As an adult, I regret not learning to play. Both my grandfather and father could sit at a piano and just play. I regret that I don't have that talent.
This is not to say that I blame my mother. I understand why she stopped. I try to expose my kids to different things. It is a trial and error processes. Some things they continue with; others they don't. It is kind of the equivalent of the "no thank you bite:" you have to try this, but then you don't have to have any more if you don't like it.
So, where is the dilemma? I don't want Baker to give up piano. I have no visions of my child being a virtuoso. But, he was so excited to start lessons. I think he expected to sit down and just start playing. So many things come easily to him and he isn't used to having to really work and put forth effort. I recently read an article about success. It stated that success is more dependent on perseverance than intelligence. As a fairly smart kid, Baker hasn't had much experience with "stick-to-itness." I don't want him to breeze through school with minimal effort, never really having to apply himself, only to be side-swiped when he enters college.
I had to think long and hard about my feelings on this. How much of my desire for him to continue piano is related to my own failed attempts to learn? How much is related to my own experience with being a lazy student? And how much is it related to objective facts? It is impossible for parents to make decisions without the ghosts of our own childhood rearing their heads. It takes some honest soul-searching to make an objective decision. It isn't always easy, but nothing about parenting is.
In the end, I decided that Baker would continue lessons until he finished the first book. When it is time to go to a new book, if he doesn't want to continue, we'll stop then. This way, he is learning to give it a fair chance and getting to a point where it is more fun to play. He's been practicing and he really does seem to enjoy it when he masters a piece. Maybe he will continue and maybe he won't. But hopefully, he'll walk away with a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that he has to follow through on things.