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.
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!”