One of the wonderful things about having children is that they introduce you to new experiences – to worlds you never inhabited in your own youth.
I have found this to be true with our 10-year-old twins who decided upon entering fourth grade that they were going to take up their elementary school’s offering of music lessons; Griffin chose the clarinet, and Georgia selected the violin.
Admittedly, at first, I was a bit annoyed. I have a musically talented friend who admonished me about the importance of children playing instruments, about how it enriches their learning. But I had made it through my life thus far instrument free and comfortable with that fact, and I frankly did not want to listen to the practicing, especially all of a sudden times two.
Nonetheless, I dutifully drove to the local music shop to rent the instruments, where, much to my dismay, even the owner – who is supposed to promote her business – groaned when I announced why I was there.
“Oh boy,” she said. “Do you want me to throw in a pair of earplugs?”
That afternoon, when our twins returned from school, I knew for sure that we were in for it.
Griffin couldn’t figure out how to screw together his clarinet. I caught his arm just as he was about to throw the uncooperative instrument across the room. Georgia, on the other hand, easily unearthed her violin from its case and began sawing away, managing to coax from the strings what sounded like a goose’s death throes. Not to be outdone by his twin sister, Griffin finally assembled his clarinet and was soon merrily honking away.
“Do you think they’ll really stick with this?” I asked my husband over the cacophony when he returned from work. “I don’t know how much I can take.”
I had a tension headache the size of Texas, and we were only on day one.
Griffin, however, quickly discovered that if he left his clarinet each afternoon in the corridor outside the fourth-grade classrooms, he could avoid practicing altogether. But Georgia diligently practiced each evening before bed, even when I begged her not to, unsure that my nerves could take another round of the “Star Wars” theme.
One day, however, I realized that the music ricocheting around our house was not quite as unpleasant as it had been just weeks earlier. Suddenly, I understood that our daughter was getting it. She was actually playing. And soon she announced that she had been chosen as one of a select group to attempt a more challenging section of the “Star Wars” theme at the spring concert.
As we settled into our seats, I wondered just how excruciating the performance would be.
But when the band began to play “Frere Jaques” in rounds, I stared with amazement at my son – the same one who never ever practiced – hitting all the right notes, his blond hair highlighted under a spotlight. I even choked up watching my daughter bow her way through the “Star Wars” theme amongst a sea of tiny violins.
“I have to say that I was a little more familiar with Georgia’s songs than with yours,” I told Griffin as we drove toward the local frozen yogurt shop to celebrate.
He laughed and said that he was probably going to retire from his clarinet career. But Georgia said she was determined to persevere, even though it meant practicing over the summer.
And as I watched them fish gummy worms out of their frozen yogurt and chat with their friends, I felt the rush of it all passing by too quickly – but also happy to see my children stepping out further into the world, more into themselves.