as my parents tell the story, i began begging them for piano lessons just a few weeks before i turned four. when my requests persisted long enough to surpass the lifespan of most preschool whims, they took me to my first lesson. i had four different teachers in 13 years, during which time i discovered that i inherited the “playing by ear” gene from my great aunt billie. this discovery corresponded with my prideful refusal to practice and my less-than-enthusiastic attitude toward reading music… but i digress.
now that my little monkey is living out the last few weeks of his third year, i find myself hoping that he will clearly articulate or exhibit some sort of special interest in something. i don’t expect him to be a prodigy, nor do i want to usurp all of his free time (and mine) with a slew of resume-building activities. i do not want to enter him in pageants or groom him for the u.s. olympic swim team. but i do feel responsible for introducing him to activities that he might enjoy and arenas where he might experience success. these expectations seem reasonable enough, right?
but bordering on ridiculous is my somewhat unreasonable dream that one of my sons become a bluegrass fiddle player. this dream is merely the resurrected form of my own desires to play the fiddle. these desires died a painful death after a three-month fiddle rental and the fact that the excruciating series of cat mating sounds that followed caused my husband to question his decision to marry me. i now surround my children with bluegrass fiddle music and take every opportunity to impart to them my appreciation for its beauty. in my more generous moments, i have even been known to expand my hopeful projections to include instruments such as the banjo and the mandolin.
even so, i agree with ayelet waldman, who writes in her book, bad mother, that “the point of a life, any life, is to figure out what you are good at, and what makes you happy, and, if you are very fortunate, spend your life doing those things” (205).
it is my job to help my children do this. it is not my job to raise little people to fill the gaps in my own talents and sense of happiness. i know this. and i know how to use the cd player to fill my home with bluegrass music, and how to play the piano by ear (thank you mom, dad, and great aunt billie). what i am less sure about is how to weave together the monkey’s leanings and my instincts, how to avoid over programming him and under programming him, and how to help him gracefully accept the inevitable failures that are mile markers on the way to success.