Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lax Sax

My son had the biggest meltdown yesterday when I asked him to practice his saxophone for 10 minutes. 10 minutes! I won't get into the details, but I had to ask myself-should I still be pushing him to play? He proclaims total and abject hatred for this instrument. He does not want to play anymore. Do I give in? I don't want to.
I think he should play to engage another part of his brain and to become a well rounded person. Am I being a total nag? All I ask is for 10 minutes a day. He never plays on the weekends, and will usually get out of playing 2 or 3 other times, so he's basically playing ONCE a week. I look at this "Tiger Mother" (The Chinese mom with strict parenting philosophies who wrote a book) and she made her girls practice 2-3 hours a day. I'm not that crazy, but her shtick was that the more they practice, the better they'll get and the more they'll want to play. I think that is a logical way of thinking. But it's not working here. I tell him, "Fine, you can ditch the sax, but you'll have to play something else, and it will be hard to start from scratch now," but he doesn't care. I don't need this grief, but I'll take grief if it makes him a more interesting kid. I played guitar when I was young, wasn't too crazy about it, and of course wish I were better at it now. The easy thing would be to give in and let him quit. I know it's not the right thing. WWYD?


  1. Not having any kids, I of course am an expert on how to raise them....
    I think any decision you make will have its good points and bad points. I guess the bottom line is that both of you will have to abide by whatever decision you make. Lastly, you're the Mom, you make the decision.
    I hope it goes well.

  2. I know I'm a complete stranger and all, but coming from the standpoint of a musician who had to be forced to practice for quite a few years, I say stick with it for now.

    I took up viola around 10 years old, and it was my choice to take it up, but between about 10 and 14, I absolutely hated practicing. I had a teacher who would call me out when I didn't practice (especially when I said I did), and then would make me do exercises you're supposed to do while practicing right in front of her, over and over and over. She was a very compassionate and caring woman who would always take time before my lessons to ask me about what was new in life and how I was doing, but when it came to viola she wasn't afraid to make me cry or make me angry and frustrated. That combination made her the only adult in my life that I had complete respect for at some points. A few times when I had reached major milestones (awards, changing schools, things that could change the path of where I took my musicianship), my parents did ask me and give me the option of quitting. I know that I said yes more than once, but I would never feel that way for more than a few days, and would always ask them to re-schedule my lessons so that I could keep going.

    On the home side of my viola playing, my parents would sit down with my teacher and I at most major milestones or stages in my learning, and talk about how much I'd ideally need to practice. Once we figured that out, my parents would generally (not always) split that time into halves, and have *me* decide what times I'd practice each day. They wouldn't beg me to practice or reward me for practicing, but when the time came that I said I would, they'd stop me in whatever else I was doing and make sure I got at least the allotted amount of practice in. If I stopped for whatever reason before the time was up, they'd make sure I didn't go and do anything non-essential before finishing my practicing.

    Over the years, they became less stringent about it, though they would definitely pester me about practicing if I hadn't in a few days. By that point, I was in two highly-lauded orchestras with very driven and talented people, and even if I didn't feel driven myself, I was compelled to practice if only to keep myself from being embarrassed in front of my peers or being called out by the conductor (which would have been awful, and was something he'd do).

    I don't play these days, if only because I live in a small apartment with thin walls, and because I have no orchestra to prepare for, but viola was one of the most enriching experiences of my life. My teacher was one of the most influential people I knew, I won a few awards here and there after I forced myself through the hideous rhythm and tone exercises thousands of times, and in the end, I got to tour eastern Europe with the highest level of the state youth orchestra. We went to Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Brno, and quite a few places in between, and it was an amazing trip with friends that I would have never made otherwise.

  3. Thank you for such an honest and articulate comment! I used to play the guitar, I balked, I quit, and of course I regret it. Especially since I work with kids- how cool would it be to be able to make up silly songs and accompany myself? I totally agree with you about such a relatively simple thing- an instrument- opening up an entirely new world for you. I'm hoping that my son, once he just gets a bit better, will learn to appreciate the opportunity.
    My daughter will have to choose an instrument this summer. She seems excited for the time-being. We'll see what THAT will bring to this household!