Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mitten Strings: Stretching

It's been awhile since I did a chapter on Mitten Strings. This chapter isn't about exercise. It is about trying things that maybe we haven't done before, or that we don't think that we can do.

She relates a story about how she was interested in music as a child, and in 2nd grade, a music teacher came in to find a new crop of students. She said "He went from desk to desk, asking each of us to stand up, in turn, and sing the scale. Those who could carry the tune of do-re-mi would be sent home with notes inviting them to begin violin lessons. He stood at my desk, head down, nodding slowly back and forth as I imagined myself as Julie Andrews, singing with a purity and sweetness that would surely prove me worthy of the violin. "No, no, no," he murmured sadly, moving on to the next desk and to Karen Talarico, who, it turned out could sing on key. And that was that.

How easily children are stopped in their tracks - by a teacher's criticism, another child's taunts, a parent's offhand remark, a friend's thoughtless comment. By the end of my own ninth year, i had been pegged as a bookworm who couldn't sing. So I read stacks of books, kept my mouth shut in public, and stopped moving my body."

But then, when she is a mother, she finds that she needs to stretch. She says "I suddenly found myself forced out of my well-worn identity and back onto the learning curve. My children needed lullabies and, and later, someone to play catch with. A few months ago, Henry decided he wanted to try Rollerblading and he wanted me to go with him. 'Mom,' he said firmly, 'you're almost forty years old! Of course you can do it! I'm trying it and I'm only nine!' He had a point."

I wasn't pigeon holed as a bookworm, although I was one, and I was musically inclined. However, I let the fact that I was VERY average in every extracurricular activity really wear me down. I desperately wanted to be very good, or even the BEST, in at least one thing. Dancing, softball, piano, swimming, volleyball, clarinet, running. Anything. But I never was. And so by high school, I gave it all up except running. I was still pretty average at running, but I loved running, and running was an escape for me during those years. I was also terrible at art. Not just bad. Really terrible. So as soon as I didn't have to do it, I didn't. For years, I didn't do any arts, or any crafts because I figured it was just something that I "couldn't" do.

The author says "Our kids are out there on the front lines all the time, confronting new challenges as they figure out how to make their way in the world. Meanwhile we parents tend to setting into our ruts, doing what we know best: work, commute, eat dinner, go to bed, then get up and do it all over again. We keep everyone feed and on schedule, but how inspiring is that? And is it really the way any of us want to live, stuck in the comfort zone? Watching my sons struggle to master new skills - from shoe tying to dribbling to writing in cursive - I am inspired to push my own boundaries out a bit, to risk a little in order to reap a lot."

My children are inspiring to me. They keep trying when, if I had been them, I would have given up. They take joy in learning new things instead of looking at it as just another opportunity to fail.

She closes the chapter with the following story. "So last night, I performed in my very first concert - for an appreciative audience of two, my husband and my six year old son. 'This is Mom's first time playing music for anyone,' Henry explained by way of introduction,' and she's a little nervous. But I know she'll do fine."

Our children have faith that we can do things, if we will only try. And they are so wise.

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