We are struggling with motivation, that’s how the good moms say it. Most days I have to coerce or bribe or at least talk her into practicing violin. On a good day, I feel like Lou Holtz giving a pep talk. On the mostly not best days I’m as tired as she is, as unmotivated to motivate as she is to play. I suppose for most elementary age students and their grown-ups this is quite normal.
But today I have a plan, provided I’m not too burned out of solo parenting for the past half month to execute it. Daughter, my love, I want to show you a YouTube video of this band I like. Watch how she plays her violin. Watch what she does with what she learned. Writing was once hard work for you. It was struggle to put down letters for sounds, but now you write and mail letters for fun and master every spelling list. Music is a language, too. When you have enough skills in music you can play with it. You can say things that words can’t.
Ideally, I will continue: In less than ten years you will feel the need inside you to express yourself, to let out the way you feel. We are trying to give you the skills now so you can do that. You see, when I was a girl I hated to practice too. So I quit piano. Then I joined the school band in fifth grade and played for four years. I was proud to be the only girl saxophone player. Sadly, I didn’t practice much* so I didn’t develop an appreciation for it. I didn’t want to play in the pep band at basketball games in high school, so I quit that too, right before it was about to get a lot more fun**.
Nobody told me–or maybe they did and I wasn’t listening–that if I learned the skills now I could play to release the knots inside, play to express how it felt to be in love, play for the joy of putting a string of notes into the world. How does one go about explaining to a child the need for a creative outlet? How do you make that resonate? How do you make them plan for a future they can’t fathom? How to you get them to accept the tools, and cherish them, for something they won’t need for a long while?
So now as an adult, I will tell her, I have a lot that bubbles up in me. I feel lots of things–more things than I did as a child. I feel excitement and sorrow and longing and regret and instability and incredible, almost overwhelming love. But I let go of two meaningful ways to express those things. I can’t play those feelings, I can only sing them with my choir voice, which mostly gets told “Mom, stop singing.” Now all I have are words because I couldn’t quit them and anyone annoyed by them mostly lives far away. There was no instrument to return, no lessons to stop. Writing never felt like practicing. So now I’m doing all I can to make harmony, disonance, rhythm with words. But I will always miss the sound of the music I could be playing.
*and lied about it on the practice sheet and forged my parents’ signature
**also right before I realized how handsome the other saxophone players were becoming