A Lesson for a 9 Year Old: Speaking with Conviction

At the end of June as 3rd grade came to a close, my now 9-year-old Freckles approached me with the declaration, ” I want to play the Cello!”

Biting my tongue a little, I simply said, ” Really?  That sounds interesting.  Why do you want to play the cello?”  “All my friends are going to do Strings next year and I heard the cello when the music teacher played it and it just sounded really cool!”

There is was.  That moment when I was proud of her for wanting to try something new, but I also kind of had to rain on her parade with a dose of reality and expectations.  I explained to her that she already played the piano and asked if she wanted to give that up.  “Well, no…I want to play piano too.”  So then, I explained that another instrument is more practicing – practicing that I already nag her about with piano.  Did she understand the commitment she was making for a full year – not only to herself but to the other kids participating in the orchestra?  Could she promise me that she was going to practice both instruments every day, without complaint, and without me having to nag her about it?  The look of doubt spread on her face as she started to register that the fun part of playing the cello wasn’t all there was to it.

I wasn’t convinced.  But I filled out the registration form anyway and turned it in to the Music Department at her school.  At the next piano lesson, I mentioned to her teacher that she also wanted to play cello.  The teacher looked me in the eye and said, “At this point, I wouldn’t recommend her playing a 2nd instrument.  It’s really just too much at this age.”

So we waffled and explained to our little Freckles that playing the Cello was just too much right now.  We emailed the music teacher at school and backed out of the Strings commitment before 4th grade even begin.

Flash forward into the first week of 4th grade.  She comes home with a paper in her hand that explains there is still time to register to play in Strings this year.  She looks at me with sad eyes and says, ” I still want to play cello, Mom.  Or maybe viola?”  I looked at her with doubt.  I asked her to tell me that she promised to practice at least 15 minutes a day with each instrument without reminders.  She still looked hesitant, and even a little frustrated that I was giving her such a hard time about this.

Then, I taught her the lesson about speaking with conviction.  I told her that if you can’t convince yourself you can do something, you’re not going to convince anyone else.  She seemed to understand this.  That night, she persuaded and promised and pleaded.  She played us like a fiddle, pun intended.  And finally, we said, “Okay.  Prove us wrong.”

You see, sometimes you have to put aside your own reservations about your child’s capabilities and let them take risks.  Maybe she will fail.   Maybe the rental of the Cello will be a total waste of money.  I have memories of my own failure with the violin at her age – not practicing, not liking the instrument, dreading the concerts, etc.  But I can’t put my own negative experience in front of her desire to try.  She’s not me.  But, I’m no fool.  I know that the promises of a 9-year-old can often be empty and I fully expect that her deciding to practice or not practice the cello will be where the lesson lies.  My one commitment to her is that she will receive no reminders or nagging from me about the Cello.  It’s sink or swim and she’s the one with the choice.   I told her, “People throughout your life are going to doubt you.  Your job is to never doubt yourself and prove them wrong.”

In one way or another, there will be a lesson in this experience.  I hope it is one of perseverance and conviction.  But no matter how it shakes out, I think it will be worth the money and the time.

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