Sometimes, It’s Okay to Quit by Donna Small

When I was around seven or eight years old, my parents decided to sign me up for organ lessons. That’s right – organ lessons. Not something cool, like dance or even piano. I was the kid who played the organ for my church. It was a huge contraption with several keyboards, pedals that went across the floor, and large pipes that went up through the ceiling.

Remember the organ from Beauty and the Beast? Yeah…it was just like that.

As you can imagine, I was thrilled. (Note the sarcasm here.)

Anyway, every Wednesday night, one of my parents would take me to my lesson. There was a very nice woman in town who gave lessons out of her home. She, of course, played the organ, but also played other instruments as well, including…

wait for it….the accordion!

If I managed to play a piece particularly well, she would bring out her contraption, swing the strap around her shoulders, and squeeze the thing in and out making sounds to accompany my attempt at music.

It was not pretty.

I took lessons for years. Emphasis on the “years” part. When I started taking the lessons, I still had baby teeth. When I was finally allowed to stop, I had bee through braces, acne, puberty and was driving.

Years….

The interesting thing is, I hated every minute of it. I never practiced my songs, never looked forward to a single lesson, and continuously begged my parents to let me quit.

They never would.

So each week, I’d grudgingly get into my parents’ car and head to my lesson, feeling much like someone forced to go to the dentist for a root canal week after agonizing week.

Finally, I graduated from high school and began attending college. At last, I was allowed to quit my lessons. The small organ we had in our house was moved to my grandmothers’ house and the spot where it sat was filled with another piece of furniture. (It couldn’t be sold or given away because my parents felt certain I would eventually want to resume my lessons and they wanted to make sure I had an organ to play on.)

I never took another lesson.

Flash forward several years and now I’m the parent. I have two beautiful girls who are finding their way in life. A rather large part of that, in my opinion, is trying out different sports and activities to determine where they want to focus their energies. I don’t force them into sports or playing an instrument. I encourage if they show any interest. I pay the fee if they express a desire to join a particular sport. And I’m happy to do so. What I will not do is force them to continue something they hate participating in. Knowing that I put zero energy into my organ playing when I was their age makes me think that forcing them to do a sport or activity they don’t want to do is tantamount to flushing my money down the toilet and a surefire way to create animosity between us.

That being said, once they’ve joined a sport, they are required to complete the season and they know this. We discuss the fact that they are part of a team before they join. We discuss the fact that their team relies on them for a particular skill and it’s not fair to let the other players down. If, after one season, they don’t want to play a particular sport, that is okay with me.

Both of my girls have tried several sports and have found a particular one they flourish in and enjoy. My eldest is a swimmer and my youngest has chosen softball. Both of them have played their respective sports for several years now and I’m happy to pay the fees, purchase the equipment and attend any and all events.

Because they’re happy to participate in them.

I don’t have to drag them to practice, force them to put on their uniforms, or bribe them to get them to events. They look forward to them…because they had a part in choosing.

All this is not to say I”m angry with my parents for making me take all those lessons. I’m not. I learned a skill that while useless, is a neat party trick. I can’t play Beethoven or Mozart – you know, because I NEVER practiced – but I can play a mean “Down a Papa Joes!”

13 Comments

Filed under fun, life, music, musings

13 responses to “Sometimes, It’s Okay to Quit by Donna Small

  1. Great – a lesson all parents should heed.

  2. Yeah, I was “forced” to take piano lessons for several years when I had no interest in that instrument. One of my parents had always wished to play piano so I guess I was supposed to live out that dream. After five years I was allowed to quit.

    • Isn’t it funny how parents will do that? My father’s dream was for me to be the organist who played at the Boston Bruins games. Basically, the guy that commented on the game with music. I think he had eight or ten sounds he’d play, but my dad loved him!

  3. dellanioakes

    Like Mickey, I was forced to take piano. Not that I didn’t want to learn, I just wanted another teacher. My sister & I both took lessons but from different teachers, I wanted to take lessons from HER teacher. I liked him far better than the elderly lady to gave me mine. She made me nervous and was quite critical of my posture, hand position…. She was, in point of fact, a mean old lady. I didn’t like her. I was forced to give up my lunch period twice a week so I could have lessons. I ate lunch in the car as my mother drove me to her house.

    Fortunately, I was allowed to quit when I reached high school, otherwise, I am sure I would have rebelled vehemently.

  4. It didn’t take me so long to break my parents of their compulsion to have me play a musical instrument, Donna. I started taking piano at 5. I had my first recital at 6. The next week Mom sold my piano. Now I play guitar and blues harmonica–but they are instruments and types of music I chose for myself.

    • You were lucky, Mike. I was forced to play my latest songs at every family gathering we had. Of course, the highlight of my career was playing Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line” on my organ. Yeah…good times (That I’d like to forget, that is!)

  5. I, too, was made to play an instrument, the violin. In fairness, I didn’t hate it as you did the organ, Donna, but I didn’t particularly like it, either. It was just something I had to do. When I went away to college I put the violin under the bed and never looked at it again…… until I turned 50. I decided to try again, out of curiosity, and this time I loved it. (I still play, many years later, and am in an orchestra.) But I agree about the kids: my daughter tried flute and it didn’t “stick” so that was that. Ironically, though, if my parents had let me drop it, I wouldn’t have it in my life now.

  6. I was forced to take piano lessons. Ms. Thomas came to our house and I was never prepared. I even went as far as to put bandages on several of my fingers and feign great pain. It didn’t work. She just looked at me and continued with the lesson. As an adult, I see how ridiculous I was.

    My Mom recognized my agony, but more than that, she realized she was wasting her money.

    I tried to use the same guidelines about sports and activities with my children. Try it out, stick for the season and then decide to continue or drop it. However, it hasn’t always worked. My son started basketball. He was terrible at learning the plays. He begged to quit. After talking to the coach, we let him quit. Fortunately he was one of MANY boys on the team and his leaving wasn’t a detriment to the team.

  7. Shar, I wish I would have thought of taping my fingers. Where were you when I was growing up? I could have used your help!

  8. Oh my, organ lessons. Sometimes parents have the best intentions, believing we’d be really good at a particular thing. It sounds like it was a lesson well learned they way you have encouraged your daughters to follow their interests.

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