May I put a dilemma before you and collect your advice? The trouble with such things is that unless all of you agree (AHA HA HA HA HA *wipes eyes*), I will be TAKING some people's advice and FLYING IN THE FACE OF other people's advice---and the latter will seem ESPECIALLY ungrateful since I specifically ASKED. Well, this is the trouble with group friendships, I suppose.
Here is the trouble, and it requires a bit of boring background information but I will try to make it quick. In our school system, optional school music lessons start in 4th grade. We were kind of whatevs/meh about this milestone, since Paul and I between us have not quite enough musical talent to play an oatmeal canister, but two years ago when Rob was a fourth grader he was Very! Enthusiastic! and perhaps you remember the decision about which instrument he should choose, a post that generated almost as much controversy and emotion as posts on weight and Walmart, and then the follow-up where I answered some questions from the first post (sample question: "Flutes are for sissies") and mentioned that Rob had decided on a clarinet.
I'm sorry, this is NOT ending up "quick," is it. I am HURRYING, but hurrying is not WORKING.
Anyway, Rob took the clarinet, and to our surprise, listening to him practice was not the torment we'd expected---because, also to our surprise, he had some talent for it. We had visions of college scholarships. But despite being good at it, he didn't enjoy it, and so we let him complete the deal: i.e., stick with it for the full school year but then be done. Then I spent about a hundred times more energy fretting about letting him be done than I'd spent on letting him take an instrument to begin with, and I'm still hoping he'll choose to go back to it in high school.
ALL RIGHT, that is the back story. And now William is in fourth grade, and at the beginning of the year we just sort of yawned him through the same path Rob had taken. William is a different personality type than Rob, so instead of a relentless series of conversations about Every! Possible! Aspect!, it was more like:
Me: Hey, do you want to take an instrument?
William: Um....yeah. Sure.
Me: Which one?
William: Um....maybe clarinet or flute or trumpet.
Me: Let's look at YouTube videos of those and you can pick one.
[we watch videos]
Well, and he hates it. HAAAAAAAAATES it. It's been months and he still makes horrible scraping squawky sounds, not because he can't play it right but because he is suffused with despair. He breaks one reed per practice session. He has to be HOUNDED to practice, and he's one of those silently stubborn types who doesn't defy outright, but instead you just turn around and realize he hasn't been doing it. He will sit there for two hours with his clarinet in his hands, close to tears, NOT practicing it. The other day after he'd spent 45 minutes in mute misery, I sat right next to him being encouraging and "WOOOOOO!" and "Yay for a concert!" and then "You know, the sooner you get this done, the sooner you'll get to play a video game!" and then "Okay, now do it" and "Okay, seriously" and eventually "Are you kidding with this??" for a FULL HOUR, and finally ran out of available time to spend on that project and sent him to his room to stare at a wall for 30 minutes.
So! My inclination is to take him out of it. Working against this inclination are these things:
1. Rob will DIE OF THE INJUSTICE. He will IMPLODE, and then EXPLODE, and then he will turn to smoke and block out the sun.
2. I don't want to encourage William's stubborn streak, and it seems like this teaches him that if he just keeps silently resisting, he will get his way. (But, er, this might be a true lesson.)
3. I would like to help him overcome the "I don't want to do it so I will sit here and let despair overwhelm me rather than getting over it" thing---so that he will also be able to overcome the inevitable future situations that involve that same thing. But I've exhausted my repertoire of advice and techniques and pep talk and he's still not over it.
4. I would like to teach him to finish out a commitment without bailing.
5. I really think it's a good idea for kids to learn music.
Working FOR this inclination are these things:
1. I have X amount of time and energy to spend on each child. "Forcing him to practice his clarinet" is taking up a large portion of his share of attention.
2. I want to avoid teaching him to HATE MUSIC, and I'm afraid that that's what I'm doing by forcing this. He used to sit around picking out tunes on the keyboard but he's stopped doing that.
3. Clarinet is one of his Monday Stress Things.
4. GEEZ AM I EVER SICK OF FORCING HIM.
5. I don't think I covered the "You'll have to do this for a full school year" aspect as thoroughly with William as I did with Rob. I'm also not completely solid-footed on this principle to begin with: IS it good for character to finish out a commitment no matter what, or is it better to teach concepts such as "sunk costs" and "cutting losses" when something isn't working out? I could go either way on this.
6. It IS good for children to learn music. But he's not learning it this way.
So. This is the matter before the group: What should be young William's music-lesson fate?
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