Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mississippi Hot Dog

Helen started taking violin lessons in September. She'd been pestering me about it for six straight months, and since I am a clever and responsible parent I waited until I thought she was sure--ha, ha, kidding. Mostly I just couldn't bear the thought of introducing yet another freaking activity into our roster of Things To Do. Also, the money. Also, it involved phone calls. So it took me a while, but finally I managed to break the task down into doable chunks and complete each one until ta-da, lesson time.

Now, those of you who know me in real life are probably saying, "And so, Melospiza, how is it being on the other side?" For lo, as a minor, violin playing was pretty much My Thing, especially by the time I got into the identity-crucial teen years. I didn't do sports, I had an awkward social life, my grasp of academic subjects was tenacious but perfunctory - meaning I was able to allow that occasionally, other people at my school might be better than me and I would not die - but violin, that was me. It was my baseball and swim team and math meet all rolled into one hugely time-consuming and expensive endeavor.

(And then I got to college and quit, with a mixture of grief and joy, but that is another story.)

And the short answer to your question is: good. It feels really, really good. After a brief deliberation, I signed Helen up for Suzuki lessons, which was my background (rather insufferably so - I remember one of my friends snapping at me after yet another comment about something violin-related, "Suzuki isn't god!"). We're learning all the same songs and exercises that I learned, so the first time in this parenting thing I feel like I know what's going on. It took me about five years to know or care what a DRA score is or what sort of baseball hit is most desirable, but I know from Mississippi Hot Dog (which they call Mississippi Stop Stop now, but I've been able to come to terms with that). I know all about tone and straight bows and how to hold your elbow when playing on the A string and what a good left hand position looks like, and I can talk shop with a casual fluency that eludes me in all other areas of my children's endeavors.

It also helps, and is gratifying, that Helen likes it. She's a practicer, so the Suzuki method suits her personality, as I knew it would. Every component is broken down into small tasks that can be practiced for a set number of times at home; advancing to the next task, whatever it is, is a delightfully big deal. "I think you'll get to move on to the A STRING next week!" says her teacher, with a proud and happy smile. I used to love this part (I wish I had that kind of cheerleading in my current life: wow, you did that Mail Merge REALLY WELL! I bet that next week you'll be ready to do the WHOLE BATCH!) (Or on second thought, maybe that would just be depressing.) Helen loves it, too.

It's also a welcome contrast from baseball, where there is a wearisome emphasis on Talent and Your Son Has a Great Swing and etc., with an equally wearisome carping on how the boys are expected to "practice this at home" (practice what?  how many times? for how long? what's reasonable to expect?) Soccer and swimming are like this, too. I think it's partly that many of the adult professionals in sports are there because they were talented enough to overcome uneven coaching, so they tend to believe in the talent god. There's also the fact that it's hard to practice in-game performance at home.

Anyway. I'm really glad we're doing it. I hope that my enthusiasm doesn't outlast Helen's, although I know I can't expect the same outcome I had. But right now it feels like we've opened a wing of my house that had been closed for years.

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