The thrilling life of parents of teens

The genesis of cowboy violin.

This weekend we took the kids to a symphony. It’s good for all of us to see a concert once in a while that isn’t either (a) in a school gym, or (b) accented by strobe lights.

We’d seen this orchestra before. Not world famous, but they fill a nearly thousand-seat auditorium. They sponsor an annual competition for young musicians, the three winners of which were the featured soloists on this night.

The performances were amazing, and not “that’s really remarkable for a kid,” kind of good, but these young people were fully capable of pulling off outstanding solos in front of a 70-piece orchestra. Two played the piano and one was a violinist. All teenagers.

Mike leaned over during one standing ovation.

“I’ll bet they never get yelled at to practice,” he said.

I hope not, or else that’s a lot of yelling, and I don’t think even a tiger mom could call forth that kind of talent and enthusiasm.

Both of my kids have been playing stringed instruments since the fifth grade. While both do so willingly, the level of enthusiasm displayed around here for practice could be described as somewhere between fair and I’m-going-to-pull-my-hair-out-by-the-roots-if-I-have-to-remind-you-again, depending upon the day.

Since they started, I’ve had half a mind to take up the violin again myself. I figure I’ll do so when one of the boys makes his mind up that he’s done playing the instrument we paid off in installments.

I did play a little in grade school. We were allowed the option in second grade, which in retrospect was counter-productive. I liked the violin much better than the piano – the latter of which was housed was in our chilly, cobwebbed-draped, cement-floored basement, where I’d practice with the certainty that something spooky was spying on me from behind the dryer.

My affection for the violin, however, was tempered by the fact that the thing was as big as my torso. Any appreciation I had was frequently outweighed by my desire to pitch the gargantuan thing into a field somewhere on the way home every day so I could regain the feeling in my arm.

You know what would be remarkable? An old soloist’s competition. No more “Rising Stars of Tomorrow,” they should have a “Setting Suns of Today” thing for middle-aged hacks who pick up playing music in their waning years as some sort of effort to check crap off their bucket list.

Sure, it’s awesome to see a young person with dedication and talent, but let’s face it, their brains are soaking stuff up like little sponges. Their little hands are flexible. Try learning to read music when you’ve already killed off half your brain cells. Try forcing arthritic fingers to contort themselves across itsy-bitsy strings to make something other than the shriek of the banshees. That surely takes some doing.

“Man, get a load of that old lady. Can’t remember where she left her reading glasses, but will dedicate the grey matter for something like that,” they’d say, applauding my performance. “Bravo.”

Anyway, Mike’s comment about yelling at people got me thinking about how much time I do actually spend yelling at the boys to practice. It’s less than the time I spend as the family chauffeur, certainly, but still takes up a good chunk of my day.

And because I did not pick up playing the violin today, I have time to do things like create this utterly useless infographic about the allocation of my parenting time.

parent life


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  1. We spent boocoos on renting and then buying a piano for my oldest. He barely practices but doesn\’t understand why he can\’t play at a more advanced level. Hmm… And now my youngest is about to select a wind instrument for next school year. I\’m wondering how that one will go.

    1. We never got into the wind instruments. We have a piano that\’s never played anymore, and two violins that cost as much as compact cars. Good luck!

    1. Once, when I was driving someone somewhere, one of my kids said to me \”I can\’t wait until I\’m a grown up and I can do whatever I want.\”

      So, apparently that \”whatever I want\” includes driving. Because it seems like that\’s all I ever do.

  2. The driving them every where is the hardest part, I think. It is so tiring to just drive up and down the same roads and sit in parking lots waiting,waiting, waiting. I do keep a good supply of books, magazines, and podcasts on hand, but still…

    1. I keep stuff with me too, to pass the time. Our oldest goes to a school that\’s at least a 30 minute drive from home, so there\’s an hour, round trip in the morning and afternoon. Sooo tiring. Can\’t wait to get him his own car….