Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Confessions of a cheerleader mom-or, who chooses music lessons?

This is a tough one-because obviously, I believe music is important for kids. Otherwise, I wouldn't teach it-and especially, I wouldn't teach it to ages 0-7.

But there also comes a time when the child is truly expressing a preferences, and circumstances, whether it's too much homework, too many nights out of the house for mom to keep her sanity, money, or just common sense force a choice. What do you do when your child is clearly expressing a choice that's not what you want?

My first thought is to decide what the important factors are. For me, having music as part of my daughter's life is important, and since she's homeschooled, she is not getting even the once a week school music class. However, that doesn't mean that a specific KIND or type of music activity is essential. When my daughter was 2, I was gung-ho about starting her on Suzuki violin. I'd always wanted to play strings, and hadn't had the chance to learn until college, and here I was, teaching every week in a building with all these wonderful string teachers. So, I got a violin and started practicing.  I bought the Suzuki book 1 CD and started playing it constantly. I pointed out the violins that my DD heard each week when we were in the music building. I told my daughter that pretty soon she'd be big enough to take violin lessons, and wouldn't that be fun? I pointed out the Elmo's World episode where the violin was the word of the day.

And my toddler told me flat out "I don't LIKE violin! I play flute!".

Oops! Guess I'd missed an important step-figuring out what the child wanted.

Anyway, my DD stayed in Kindermusik, which she did enjoy. In YC 1, after she started playing glockenspiel, she began picking out the melodies on piano, and started trying to figure out some of the piano books I had at home. I started giving her little mini-lessons when she asked for them-but didn't even suggest starting formal lessons. In YC 4, she started playing recorder, and wanted to play it more, so I asked her if she wanted me to teach her recorder. Her response is "yes, but I want Ms Teri to teach me piano". Enough said. So now, she takes piano with Ms. Teri, and recorder with mommy. It works. She found her own way.

If she hadn't wanted to take piano or recorder, we'd find another way to get music education in for our homeschooling plan-maybe a children's choir, or a music literature class or music theory, or maybe she'd have wanted to try that flute she said she wanted at age 2. And I would have been worried that I wasn't doing enough-but I would have tried to let her do it.

Similarly, I feel that it's important for her to have some form of physical outlet, especially since we homeschool. We've tried soccer and t-ball. She hated both. We tried swimming. She likes playing in the water, but doesn't particularly like it in her nose, and she tends to break out when she's been swimming. We tried dance and cheerleading and gymnastics. Basically, anything our local parks and rec department offered that she showed any interest in whatsoever.

What's stuck was probably the single thing hardest for me to accept as a graduated high school and college band geek-she loves cheerleading. She loves it enough that she's willing to spend hours working at the gym, not for gymnastics, but for tumbling. She loves it enough that she wants to do hip hop or jazz-dance team, cheerleader-type dancing, not ballet, despite having worn a tutu everywhere at age 3-and even when she's dancing with her dance class, she's jumping and moving with the crisp, brisk moves of a cheerleader, not the fluid movements of a dancer. So, I've become a cheer mom, going to competitions and sitting on uncomfortable bleachers to watch my pigtailed, pleated skirted daughter get picked up by kids only a couple of years older than she is, and sitting at the gym watching her work on back handspring prep. Oh, and sitting in the orthopedist's office when my child broke a bone in her hand trying to do a flip off the stairs like the "big girls"-and having the orthopedist comment "You're a cheerleader, you'll be back to see me again!".

I don't know what the future holds. There's some big part of me that hopes that by high school she'll decide that she'd rather march in a band than lead cheers on the sidelines, or that she'd rather dance to Tchaikovsky than Justin Bieber. But she's made a choice that fulfills the stated goal of having something physical. She's working hard at it. And she enjoys it.

And, if push came to shove, and we could only afford one activity outside the house, she'd pick cheer. And I'd go with her. Not just because I can teach it myself, but because music is something she enjoys and finds rewarding, but for whatever reason, cheerleading is what she loves.  And if she, later on, decides she wants to try something else, that's fine too.

But ultimately, if she's not hurting herself or someone else by her choices, they should be her choices. Even if it means mommy doesn't get to take violin lessons.

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