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Laurie Niles

Adding tackle to Twinkle

September 9, 2006 at 6:13 AM

"I don't want to play the piano, I want to play FOOTBALL!" my six-year-old son implored. "You said I could play FOOTBALL!"

I suppose I had. But football... it's so violent. I envisioned a much bigger Brian barreling toward my boy to tackle him, prematurely ending his piano playing days. It's yet another activity, and homework has to come first, and we have to practice piano.

We've tried not to over-schedule our kids with activities. A friend, in contemplating possible activities for her three-year-old twins, looked to us for affirmation by asking, "You guys don't Orange County your kids, do you?"

It was the first time I'd heard "Orange County" used as a verb, but you could insert the name of any community where parents are trying too hard to give their kids too much: piano, violin, Girl Scouts, karate, horseback riding, soccer, football, tennis, art classes...

Somehow I'd have to get him to practice, and to games. Where to fit football, with his school and piano? With my teaching all day Saturday and Thursday, orchestra gigs in several far-away towns, quartet rehearsal, teaching Suzuki group class....

Wait a second, who is it that's overscheduled?

"Buddy, you're going to play football this fall," I said.

I'm making it happen. I dropped some things, and I completely rescheduled my students, fitting that puzzle together differently to free up Saturdays. Because on Saturdays, I'll now be watching first graders play flag football. I really don't want to be doing anything else!

A few nights ago I went in to check on my sleeping son. He had cast aside his stuffed bear: he was sleeping with his new football.

Music isn't the only thing in life, is it?

From Karin Lin
Posted on September 9, 2006 at 6:23 AM
No, it's not, and you're commended for recognizing that especially given that it's your profession. As I struggle with keeping up my own 3-year-old's interest in violin, I frequently worry that I'm projecting my own dreams and attempts at recovering lost opportunities onto her. I guess parenting doesn't get any easier as they get older, does it?
From Richard Hellinger
Posted on September 9, 2006 at 6:59 AM
lol you exactally the opposite of my dad. I want to be a professional violinist and he wants me to play football (so do the coaches in school because of how big I am, lol like 6'3"). He told me "As soon as you find out how much they make you'll want to play." and My response was "I don't care if they make millions a year, first of all I wouldn't want to do something I don't like, and second I wouldn't want to play football and get a hand injury that could possibly stop me from playing violin again."
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on September 9, 2006 at 12:21 PM
Laurie, I love this blog. I have a 7-yo daughter and a 3-yo son, and although I live on the other coast, the issues are so similar, even the list of activities for "Orange County" might as well be called "Middlesex County" (or Boston Metrowest, where I am).

After a not-so-great lesson experience last year (for many reasons--bad personality fit between teacher and student, logistics, price), I made a pretty radical decision to "homeschool" my daughter in violin this year. I've never taught before, I'm not certified or credentialed, so I people here might (justifiably) think I'm crazy. I want the arrangement to be temporary; her public school starts a string program next year and I'm hoping just to tide her over until then.

But the experience has highlighted two things for me: one being your point that "music isn't everything." She's also doing karate, and given her shy, sensitive temperament and that she's not a "natural" with gross motor skills, she's really learning a lot and getting a lot out karate that's important.

The other observation was more unexpected, at least for me. At her age, what seems to be most important to her in music is the relationships that she forms while she's doing it, with the teacher and with other kids. It doesn't seem to matter to her that much exactly what, musically, she is learning. She got very bored with "Mississippi stop stop" and her attitude, which had been so sparkling at the beginning of the year, really deteriorated to the point that practicing became a chore for everybody.

The biggest thing I've noticed with me is that now she's back to begging to play/practice. Her motivation has returned. Again, I don't expect this to last forever, and if she continues with violin she will need other teachers. But I really think the lesson experience she had was too much, too soon, even though in other ways she's quite mature. There's more variation in what kids are developmentally ready for than people might expect--especially parents who want to "Orange County" their kids.

Karen Allendoerfer

From Richard Hellinger
Posted on September 9, 2006 at 12:42 PM
Karen I don't think you are crazy because you don't have a violin teaching degree, etc. But I do think you are crazy for teaching you kids, lol. I mean (might be different for you) I tried to teach my sister baritone (I play tuba, samething just different octaves) and it got really frustrating and I gave up. But your daughter might feel more comfortable with you because you are her mom.
From Ronnie Elkan
Posted on September 9, 2006 at 2:02 PM
Wow! My mother wouldn,t let me play sports unless I practiced and my coach would give me a hard time when I needed to make a orchestra commitment. That was in 1967. I suffered so much ridicule from the coaches that i quit playing violin. I still went on to become a professional fiddle player. Hang in there Rrichard.
From Ray Randall
Posted on September 9, 2006 at 2:06 PM
When my Father went to Juilliard, actually the Damrosch (sp) Institute for Music back then, they had a football team and he played on it. When they played Columbia the opposition was always screaming "step on their hands."
Another thing Dad said they did was that he and his classmates used to go to band concerts, sit in the front row, and SUCK LEMONS. You can just picture the band member's mouths starting to water from thinking about and seeing lemons being sucked and screwing up their playing.
Have things changed there yet? LOL
From Anne Horvath
Posted on September 9, 2006 at 5:29 PM
Hey Laurie: I am stealing the "Orange County" verb. Feel free to sue me for my millions (of lira). Around here, it would be "Do you Hoover your kids?" (Hoover is a city-suburb next to Birmingham).
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on September 10, 2006 at 3:27 AM
I don't have kids of my own, but I teach other people's kids. I'm amazed at how structured and planned everything has to be. When I was a kid, I came home from school and went out in the street and played with the other kids. It wasn't the most enriching environment, but I grew up pretty well anyway.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 10, 2006 at 6:17 AM
I didn't even think of the idea of a parent wanting a child to play football more than violin, but I can see it! I guess we come to parenthood with certain intentions and expectations. It certainly is a balancing act, deciding what to require, what to make optional, when to stick to it, when to quit and try something new. We'll still be doing piano, though!

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