Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Piano, yes or no

Elli has been taking piano lessons for the past ten weeks.  She requested them and was very excited initially and since we have a keyboard sitting around it seems like an ideal choice for an instrument.  I was concerned that we would have to nag her to practice and I really didn't want that - if she wants to play, great, but if not then I don't want to pay for lessons.  Forcing the issue just doesn't seem appealing or useful.  She was enthusiastic and agreed that she would practice without nagging and we all agreed that if she did not practice the lessons would end.

This week the first round of lessons ended and Elli had practised twice in total over ten weeks.  I was ready to end the lessons as per our agreement.  Wendy was not on board with this plan.  She loves piano and really wants Elli to play.  For her the idea of telling a child who really wants to take lessons that they are not allowed is just awful.  She wanted to encourage Elli's interest and let her continue.  I on the other hand think that dealing with the consequences of your choices is a vital learning experience.  Elli made a deal and now the terms of that deal need to be followed through on.  Giving in and letting her continue establishes that we don't mean what we say and that we don't expect her to either.

I remember when I was in grade 5 and I failed to build a science fail project due to procrastination and foolishness.  I had to admit in front of the whole class that I simply didn't build one and although my classmates probably forgot the incident 30 seconds later I still remember it to this day.  It taught me something in a way that screwing around and getting away with it never did.  All the times in my life where I really got better, where I improved and became a more worthy person, were times when I got my ass kicked and I *deserved* it.  I want Elli to have those moments when they arise because right now the stakes are very low indeed.

This conflict is one of the parts of parenting that nobody talks about.  There is a real challenge when you look at your child and you are certain that this moment, this particular choice, is a critical point of learning and your partner disagrees with your convictions.  It is deadly hard to back somebody up on a choice they make when you absolutely do not agree with the choice and when it is something you feel passionately about.  There are many reasons that children break up marriages and I think this is one of the ones we just don't speak enough about - the necessity to swallow your convictions and wholeheartedly support a cause you fundamentally disagree with.

In our case one of us was going to have to swallow a very bitter pill.  Fundamentally I want Elli to have that desperate feeling of doom, that crushing despair.  Not for a lifetime, but just for a short while.  I want that because out of that feeling comes strength, determination, and compassion for others who are suffering.  Wendy did not want Elli to feel that way.  In the end Wendy got her way and Elli is signed up for more lessons with a new agreement to encourage practising regularly.

Sometimes I think the villain in Braveheart, the elder The Bruce, really had it right.  "Uncompromising men are easy to admire....  But it is exactly the ability to compromise that makes a man noble."  Sticking to your guns is easy, compromise is hard.


  1. Agreed. We have had this sort of discussion a few times already at my house and I don't enjoy it.

    One option is to get more data. Compromise is easier for me when there's a bigger chance that I'm wrong.

  2. I agree, it's hard to present a united front when your opinions are miles apart yet you both think you're right. Do you remember any examples of this from your childhood? If not, maybe it's not such a big deal.