Daddy Talk: Time to Practice… Again
By Tim Krason
For about a year now, our boys have been taking music lessons — Isaac on the drums and Tanner on the piano. And, honestly, beyond asking them some questions about which instruments they would prefer to learn, my wife and I didn’t give them much of a choice. We reasoned that they would just begin learning young as a matter of course and before long, they would enjoy music just like any teenage garage band rocker.
“Before long,” I’m afraid, has turned into one long year of pounding on instruments. The biggest struggle, it turns out, is not the actual playing of the instrument but the act of getting the child physically to the instrument to practice. Sometimes there’s an all-out crying fit over being asked to practice. Sometimes they declare crazy things: “You never want me to be happy!” Sometimes they use delay tactics in hopes that we’ll forget about the music eventually. We make all sorts of deals with them. Currently, Isaac has a five-minute maximum time at the drums. I started that cap just to make sure he wouldn’t get overwhelmed by the amount of time that it would take to get through the lesson. But, really, six minutes of pounding would start to be torture for us too, so both parties win out.
Getting in the car to drive to the weekly lesson also elicits cries of anguish. “What!?” they ask incredulously. “My lesson is today!?” Often, my wife and I will drop them off with the teacher in dread of what might happen during the next 30 minutes only to have them emerge a little while later with the teacher saying something like, “He did so well today!” Either the kids have some sort of chemical imbalance where they really do shift their emotions this rapidly, or the teachers are hopelessly clueless about normal human behavior (which really could happen since most of their time is spent with children who are pounding on instruments).
Overseeing the practice times also brings about strange behavior. Because I took piano lessons as a child myself, I find it rather easy to supervise Tanner as he figures out the rhythms and the keys on his lessons. But Isaac could probably use a during-the-week drum coach who is a bit less clueless about percussion than I am. His teacher is really serious about his posture and stick grip, and those are nuances that I can’t read on the page of music in front of me. The result is that as I watch him practice, I feel compelled to interject exclamations that I’ve heard his teacher yell out: “Thumbs!” “Elbows!” or “Bounce it!” Sometimes Isaac will respond physically, but other times, he just looks at me strangely.
Even with the frustrations, I’m glad that we’ve had our kids studying music for the past year. I think it gives them a great creative outlet, and I’m sure that they’re receiving some kind of mental stimulation that they would not receive elsewhere. The joy on their faces when they conquer one of their lessons is deeply satisfying.
As a bonus, I’m hoping that as we move closer to the holiday season, the soundtrack of our home life may involve more festive holiday music. More than likely, though, the joyous strains will be intermingled with temper tantrums, screamed imperatives like “Bounce it!” and the support of music teachers who have patience which passes understanding.