I grew up with music. I sang in choirs, took piano lessons and performed in musical theatre. My family would take every available opportunity to sing and play together, car trips were an absolute ordeal for my parents as we four kids would take turns picking a song for the group to sing together (we liked the most ridiculous summer camp songs for a really long time!)
My husband grew up completely differently, he was very much into hockey as a young lad. I can’t remember details but I know he told me that he once played against Wayne Gretzky when they were kids (growing up in Brantford, if you played hockey at that time, you played with or against a young Great One). An old friend of his is an ex-NHL player who now works as a hockey scout and his first words upon seeing our oldest son (who was about four months old at the time) were, “Holy crap, he’s a bruiser! I want to coach him!” As flattering as that was (I’ll admit, for a minute I saw the Stanley Cup in my living room) I know absolutely that I do not want to be a hockey mom, or a soccer mom, or a baseball mom. Sports are not my thing and I fervently hope that they don’t become something important to my children either.
When I was a kid my mother enrolled us in piano lessons, (which I hated at the time but am now eternally grateful for!) she also signed us up for swimming lessons (which I tolerated) and softball (which I hated!). I was so terrible at it that I was always put into the outfield in the hopes that the ball would never actually reach me. The odd time that the ball headed my way I was very quick to call on a neighbouring player to come and catch it. Now that it’s 30 years later I can freely admit that I would take any opportunity to, shall we say, overinflate a minor injury to the point that I just couldn’t continue playing. (Perhaps I should have spent my time learning about teamwork rather than trying to catch a ball) After my own experiences with team sports, I’m not surprised that I really hope my kids stay away from them.
That’s not to say that I won’t let them try sport if they express an interest in it, I will, however, wait until they’re old enough to choose themselves. They are both in swimming class now but I don’t count that as a competitive sport, it’s a safety thing. We have a boat and access to a cottage near the lake so we spend a lot of time on the water in the summer, they need to know how to be safe (although they’ve never been farther away from me than the length of my arm!) Little Man is an absolutely fearless child and I’m sure that he will give me more than one heart attack over the course of his life!
Luckily for me the boys have spent 95% of their lives in my company (and my parents who are our primary babysitters) so as of this point they hardly know what sports are. My brother brought them home a souvenir hockey stick from the Winter Classic in New York and they thought it was a funny shaped drumstick! (They proceeded to use it to break our television so it’s gone now) Our house contains a baby grand piano (my pride and joy!), two flutes, a piccolo, an oboe, a saxophone, two accordions, a violin, a viola and a set of drums.
Every day I have to remind the boys that we don’t play piano until Daddy wakes up and any time I pull out an instrument to practice I get about three minutes before they want to have a turn also. (Luckily I’ve had years of practice at pretending to have put the work in between lessons!)
As the boys are still so young I knew that I had time to try to convince my husband that involving the boys in music would be a much better choice than sport. I figured it would likely be an uphill battle but out of the blue this morning he brought the subject up himself. It turns out that he completely agrees with me!
So now I can happily continue to raise my musical boys. We’ll keep making music together every chance that we get, we’ll sing in the bathtub (or van, or backyard, or grocery store) We dance and sing along with our impressive collection of movie musicals (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has been a favourite for a long time. Check out Big Boy’s performance from two years ago here: Me Ole Bamboo Dance) The boys also love Annie, Mary Poppins, The Sound Of Music and Oklahoma!
People who know me well always assume that at least one of my children has already started some sort of formal music training, I didn’t start until I was seven years old and that is when I will have the boys start piano lessons. I’m not looking to raise the next Yo Yo Ma or Oscar Peterson (although if I do that would be cool!) but I think that having some experience with music (reading, playing, performing) adds to the wholeness of a person in a magical way.
Right now the boys love to just plunk away at the piano (watch Little Man’s first performance here: http://youtu.be/SmdHNt0UKFs), saw the strings of the violin and bash on the drums. They adore it and my heart explodes to see their enthusiasm for something that I love so much and have had so much joy from. They’re both well on their way to sharing both my impressive talent (yes, I went there!) and my unbounded love for music.