Against all odds, I continue to keep up the charade that we don’t quit difficult things we commit to.
We’re four and a half years into this adventure and no one’s more surprised than me to see us still standing. Practice sessions at home used to be miserable much of the time and lessons with the teacher was always a crapshoot as to whether he’d make it through without a meltdown or unruly behavior. He teacher is a total gem and seemed to have a plan for every challenging situation. Back at home with me, despite my attempts to channel his teacher’s magical ways, not so much. Then there was group lesson, which in the early days were almost exclusively painful where it was a constant battle to keep him listening and following instructions. But as years passed, it all slowly got better. It shaved about 15 years off my life but hey, in return I got to listen to variations of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star for roughly 1,500 hours. At some point lessons became painless, group lessons not too big a deal, and I even got to hear other songs.
On Saturday we walked past a busker at Greenlake playing violin. Nashi spoke to him and upon learning the busker’s plan to return the next day, a scheme was hatched for a dueling busking show to occur. We tried looking for him in the middle of the day to no avail. Like any caring parent, I successfully explained to Nashi that a casual comment from a friendly busker isn’t exactly plans that a seven year old can count on. So while I will make the trip one more time in the evening, we can’t expect that this duet will happen, in fact we should expect that it won’t. But, the charmed idealism of a child wins the day against the cynical curmudgeon of a father and we do in fact spot him later that day. This time, freshly tuned violin in hand.
Nashi happily goes through his playlist, now a dozen songs deep. The busker played with him and a lifelong memory was born. He even got over the disappointment that his violin case didn’t get filled up with cash from passers by. A sweet message from the busker sent after: “It was fun playing with Nashi. I quit the violin in high school because I was feeling a lot of pressure to perform and lost my love of music. Playing with Nashi today brought back some of the good memories I had forgotten. Thanks for both of your gifts.” Nashi enjoyed this message, as did his violin teacher who I shared the story with later.
We’ve kept up near daily practice for over four years and I hope he plays music for a long time to come. He has also taught himself all his violin songs on the piano in the past year. The message from the busker is a good reminder too, that a kid’s relationship to music can turn sour if there’s too much pressure. Unsurprisingly, he’s never thought that practice is a fun thing to do. I’m not sure what that balance is since I’m definitely forcing him to practice. I’m afraid to ask him if he still wants to do this because what if he says no? He’s been (relatively) compliant thus far and does clearly enjoy playing the songs he’s learned, so for now I think we don’t poke the bear and keep rolling with it. I figure we keep this up another three years and then it’s up to him by the time he starts middle school whether he wants to continue. The hope is that he joins band at that point and realizes he’s kind of a badass. Then the ladies follow. And the grades slip. By sophomore year in high school he’s started his own band, is doing drugs, and gets a girl preg.. oh no what have I done.
Well that’s a problem for future me I guess. For now, I’m very proud of the boy and continue to be excited to see his growth. He’s always loved instruments and I hope this nurtures a relationship with music that will last for life. I also hope that this gives him the confidence of knowing he can accomplish anything he commits to.
He’s now talking about busking solo in front of stores, saying that’s where the foot traffic is of those with money to spend. Evidently, I need to start thinking about how to prevent him from becoming an elementary school dropout as he hits the streets.