Play It Again, Mom
“It’s summer, do I still hafta take piano?” my son Lewis pleaded as we headed to his half-hour lesson.
“Yes,” I said, thinking of the $30 per week that I had prepaid through July.
“But, I hate piano,” Lew whined. “And you said that if I hated it I could quit.”
I had always hoped that my kids would be musical. And, if you walk into my house, you might think that they are. There’s a saxophone under the sideboard in the dining room, an electric guitar in the den, a violin upstairs in my daughter’s closet and a piano piled with mail in the living room. We’ve got a clarinet in the coat closet, a bass and amp in my oldest son’s room and my grandfather’s mandolin is hanging on the wall in the upstairs hall. Heck, you would think that we were the Partridge Family. Well, I’m no Shirley Jones, but I did hope that my kids would each play an instrument. OK, I confess I had a few fantasies of the family gathered around the piano singing Christmas carols and harmonizing on Kingston Trio tunes. But those were short-lived.
Turns out, my kids have no interest in learning a musical instrument – and they’ve tried them all.
My daughter played the recorder in kindergarten. Then, in third grade, she tried the violin. In fourth grade it was flute, and in fifth grade she switched to piano. But she never practiced and, when she started hiding out at her friend’s house on the afternoon of her piano lessons, we came to the mutual decision that the lessons should stop.
My oldest son took up cello in third grade, then guitar, then piano and even dabbled with an electric mandolin. Finally, he decided that what he really wanted to play was video games.
So, Lewis, the youngest, is my last hope. He too began with the recorder in kindergarten, then advanced to violin, asked to switch to saxophone in third grade, then quit and started guitar and then electric bass. His interest in each instrument was fleeting. So, in September, I suggested that he take piano lessons. OK, I bribed him with the promise of a new bike and told him that if he really hated it, he could quit in six months.
But he wouldn’t hate it, because I found a piano teacher that was hip and cool and taught chords and improvisation and even doled out candy. This guy was everything that my childhood piano teachers weren’t. There was only one thing that was the same; you still had to practice. And Lewis didn’t. Oh sure, if I nagged him enough, he would sit down at the keyboard and take a stab at the chords that the cool teacher had written down. But after a minute – three minutes, tops – he’d announce “I’m done!” and make a beeline for the Xbox or the front door or the fridge.
“But I’m starving ...” he’d protest. “I’m getting weak. I can’t concentrate.”
After a snack, he’d sit at the piano for another 60 seconds and the pattern would start again.
“I have a lot of homework to do,” he’d argue. “My fingers hurt.”
It was a constant struggle.
So it wasn’t a big surprise when I drove Lewis to piano lessons yesterday and he repeated his request to quit. “I really hate it,” he added.
“How could you hate it?” I reasoned with him. “You’re learning all kinds of cool stuff, your teacher lets you write your own songs, he never yells … he even gives you candy! I wish I was taking piano lessons with your teacher.”
“Then do it,” said Lew.