Saturday, October 10, 2009

Holding Out on My Son?

As I have shared in other forums, I had the opportunity to become a professional musician while I was still in high school. Through some very good and helpful folks, I had a fairly lengthy career, ripe with many opportunities for advancement.

However, around the time that I became a school Principal and my 3rd child was born, I decided to scale the music performance dates way back. I’ve kept up with the practicing over the years and I've even had the opportunity to play some concerts and clinics and even record two CD's (yes, my children have each CD in their collections and on their iPods!), but the weekly performance dates had to go.

One of my best breaks in music was that I got a chance to study with one of the greatest people, greatest teachers, and greatest musicians in the world while I was at Wayne State University. I always admired my private lesson and small group instruction teacher, as he had all of the professional and personal traits that I admired.

However, he once told me that he would never teach me everything that he knew, because he did not ever want to have to compete for a job with somebody who knew as much as he did! Although he said it with a smile, I believed that he was serious! To this day, I still believe that he was not joking!

I have told that story to my kids several times over the years. Of course, as they have progressed through their music lessons and free and professional performances, I have always told them that I would NEVER hold back with my knowledge and that I would always share everything that I knew – as long as they were prepared to learn.

Well, a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to give a public performance. This performance was special for a few reasons, one of which is that all of my children got the chance to see me perform live in front of an audience. In fact, for my two boys, it marked the first time that they had ever witnessed one of my live performances!

As we were driving home from the performance, I asked my kids for their views on what they had just heard. My daughter thought that I had played well and my older son concurred. However, my younger son (he plays the percussion instruments – just like his dad!) was silent …. most unusual behavior from him!

Finally, he said the following: “So, you ARE just like your teacher. I see that you HAVE been holding out on me”! The comment was serious and there was not even a hint of humor. I asked him to explain his comment.

He told me that, as much as I had taught him, it was clear that I had left quite a bit of information out of our lessons together, as he heard me play notes and passages that I had never taught to him and ....... he was right!

However, I was not holding out on him. I just wanted to be sure that he was ready for the lessons that would lead to him being able to perform at a higher level. He had determined that the moment had already arrived.

So, guess what we did when we got home and again on the next evening? YES, my son got the lesson on an advanced technique of percussion performance; he practiced quite hard; and he nearly mastered the concept within two days!

No, I didn’t misjudge his ability. I was merely saving the concepts for another time. But, this scenario taught me another lesson: Don’t withhold information from your kids, particularly if it can help them to excel in their various endeavors!

My son, who initially thought that I was holding out on him in a perfect imitation of my admired teacher from college, came to understand that I was only doing what I thought was best. But, as I shared with him, from now on, my best will be to teach him everything!!

Any stories from you on waiting for the “perfect” moment to forward information to your children, only to learn that your kids believed that the moment had arrived much earlier?

Ah, parenting – gotta love it!

Paul W. Reeves

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