How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Take a cab. Trust me.
I’m coming up on 25 years of being a flutist. No, wait, make that 30. Aaaaand…now I feel old. Please pass the support hose and ear horn.
So as I was saying, I’m coming up on (sigh) 30 years of being a flutist. It doesn’t feel that long, mainly because some ten years ago I pretty much burned out. I still played, I still taught, but it wasn’t as enjoyable as it had been. Actually, nothing was enjoyable as it had been, something directly connected to the fact that I had a very high-intensity firstborn and was pretty much wiped. I’m just now getting back into playing more seriously, and with that comes
daily near daily as often as possible practice. Hold this in one hand of your brain, I’m about to jump to something completely different.
The aforementioned firstborn is my 2e son. I spend a lot of time fretting over how the hell he’s going to make it in life. While intensely bright, the other half of the “e” makes life, well, challenging. Executive function skills are poor, he’s a perfectionist who’d rather not try than fail even a little bit, his resiliency level is somewhere under the Mariana Trench. (And if I read one more study claiming that resiliency is the one thing a child must have in life to succeed, I’m having a marshmallow bonfire with it) Hold this in the other hand of your brain.
When things went south years ago and I burned out on my flute (and everything else), I stopped practicing with any regularity. I would work up music for the occasional gig, but I had to time it just right. If I attempted to practice with the boys around, nothing-and-I-mean-NOTHING got accomplished. I’d have one kid running for our trumpet to “play along,” with the other alternating between climbing my leg and climbing the music stand. Not exactly conducive to concentration. In addition to losing the skills I’d worked so hard to gain, something else happened.
They never got to hear or see me fail.
And when I practice, OHHH is there failure. There is very loud and obvious failure, over and over and over. Repeat ad infinitum. There is also struggle, and work, and forced patience, and even the occasional creative profane utterance. Ok, more often than occasional. But then there is improvement. There is very loud and obvious improvement, over and over and over. And then I repeat the cycle again and again and again.
I’ve been practicing more lately. There’s a new wind ensemble starting up this fall, and by God I will be in that ensemble. So I practice, both flute and piccolo (my dog and my neighbors just adore me right now). The boys have been hearing me fail nearly every day, and returning to do it again and again. They’ve also been hearing me work on tiny little sections of music, with great patience, over and over and over until I get it better. They’ve been learning the occasional creative profane utterance. And they’ve been hearing me improve (when there’s more music than creative profane utterances, they know I’ve made it better). They are unconsciously learning that failure often must happen before things improve, that hard work doesn’t always show immediate results, and that mom can worm the dog simply by practicing full range scales on her piccolo. And they are learning that hard work and failure and patience and struggle are not only necessary to get ahead, but can even be a little bit fun.
Neither boy plays an instrument nor wants to (excuse me while I…sniff…get this dust out of…sob…my eye), so I hope they learn these skills in another area. They won’t learn them by direct instruction from me, simply because it’s mom talking. But it’s my hope that in the meantime they’ll pick them up simply from exposure to me failing daily, picking myself up, and doing it again and again and again.
Jen writes over at Laughing at Chaos, where she really should post something new and interesting and fun, but summer schedules and flute practicing keep demanding attention. She’s also the author of If This is a Gift, Can I Send It Back?: Surviving in the Land of the Gifted and Twice-Exceptional, to be published Summer 2012 by Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Press.