Practice: The I Don’t Like It, Aha Moments

As much as I hate the consequences of what I’m about to say, I nod my head, commiserate for a moment with my defeated child, and take a deep breath.

“You just have to keep practicing. It’s the only way you’ll get better,” I say as gently as I can.

I brace myself. Either tears or a swift crack of the recorder against the chair will come next. “I hate this thing!”

“I hate it too. God, I really do,” I think.

“Squeeeeeee, skreee, skree, squeeee, squraaaa squaaaa-eeeeeeeek—BANG! BANG! BANG!”

“Don’t bang it. You’re going to break it. And you can’t expect to learn it in two minutes. Practice some more.” I leave the room.


Stuck on one song…It’s Raining, It’s Pouring will never be the same.

My son is not a musical child obviously. At least, he won’t be now because learning the recorder for school has not been a good experience. He was excited for this with his very first squeak. Now, not so much. He won’t be trying out for band in middle school, so what’s the point of learning this thing, he huffs.

I know his pain. It’s exactly the way I felt about math from fourth grade on. I’m sure I threw a pencil or two. When would I ever use math? Little did I know I’d be punished decades later with a job that required me to know those same stupid elementary skills and two children who squirmed through math homework. No end in sight to that last one.

I hate to admit it, but I think my son gets his need of instant gratification from me. I hated to practice. If I wasn’t good at something right away, well, it wasn’t for me. Even though I wanted to write from the time I started kindergarten, I was never one for revisions. I thought my first drafts were perfect. Teachers and professors and editors must have wanted to snap my bony limbs in half. Why did they never call me out on my cockiness?

My daughter reminded me last night that she is cut from a different cloth. She wants to learn to do a handstand. I tucked my shirt in my jeans, raised my arms overhead, and pointed my left toe straight out. Like gliding on roller skates, it all came back. I moved forward and felt my body take over. I proudly did a dozen handstands and I can still walk today. My daughter tried for 45 minutes to do a handstand. I watched as she somehow got her hands stuck under her knees and landed smack on her face. She laughed and she tried again. And again. And again. She still can’t do one.

Practice makes perfect. Unless you don’t want to be perfect at it—if it’s something you hate.

As for my writing, I wrote all the time in journals—practice I never realized I was getting. I knew what I could get away with for a passing grade on papers. I finally started to listen to my editors. Now, revise, revise, revise.

And my son? No, I don’t think he’ll ever master that recorder. He’ll put his efforts into another passion another day. But I do fear he’ll end up with a child who wants to play first violin in the orchestra.



Filed under Everyday Life

44 responses to “Practice: The I Don’t Like It, Aha Moments

  1. Patience is hard, your daughter has an amazing gift to be that patient!

  2. Valerie

    Great post! My daughter is paying me back with lack of enthusiasm for math because I was the same growing up. I didn’t start applying myself until I was in high school. 🙄 Oh, and we homeschool, so I actually get to TEACH it to her… 😛

    • I have written about my hatred of math many times. If I had to teach it to my kids, I don’t know what I’d do. My job is editing and my son tries to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about when I try to teach him grammar. He finally gave in and let me help him with that recently. So far, it’s going well. I think he trusts me. 😉

      • Valerie

        Yes, it’s quite frustrating at times but I do try to remember just what I felt when I had to do math (and how I thought I’d never use it later). One perk is that I am now learning some things I somehow never did!

      • It’s definitely easier to learn when you’re older!

  3. Good read. My son has a similar can’t-do attitude. To combat this we have taken to waterboarding him every time he says, “I can’t…”. I thought it was working until he started screaming, “I can’t breathe!” Some kids will just never learn 😉

  4. I totally relate to your son! Patience is a virtue that was not bestowed upon me (neither was the ability to do a hand stand!).

  5. Hey, at least you could show your daughter how to do one!! I learnt all on my own

    • I don’t remember how I learned. She wanted me to show her how to do a cartwheel. Learned my lesson the hard way after trying to teach my son years ago that those muscles obviously don’t get used anymore!

  6. Ah, yes, the appearance of the recorder–3rd grade is it? Or 5th–I can’t remember. I just remember hearing the sound. Night after night after night…

    • Yes, he got it in third grade last year and it wasn’t bad at first (for him). This year has been torture as he can’t get past this one song. Next year my daughter starts and I will have two shrieking recorders! I can see how it will play out. She’ll get it very quickly and he will not be happy. 😉

  7. I am impressed you can still do the handstand! Teaching my daughter how to do roundoffs after 35 made me realize the stars I see afterwards last too long to make the effort anymore! Way to go!

  8. Two children like this here, one not. I’m afraid to say the perfectionism comes from me as well. I feel like apologising to them for passing it on….although maybe it’s not too late to knock it out of them.

  9. When my boys practice their instruments I leave the room, for their safety and my sanity 😉

  10. Lisa

    A handstand at your age! Go get ’em. And here I thought all you did in high school was shake the pom poms.

  11. The recorder…ugh! My husband was shocked my school never required this torture, while he meanwhile still has reoccuring nightmares of learning the recorder. I’m much like you and your son in that I always had to be great at something right away or I’d lose all interest in trying. It’s why I’m so successful today (cough, cough).

    • Imagine this: three kids, three separate rooms, learning three separate instruments in the same 1-hr time frame. Clarinet, violin, and flute. It’s a wonder my mom didn’t shoot herself.

      • Or stab out her ear drums.

        What’s up, Shannon?!

      • Insanity. Some mothers are cut out for all the craziness. I never said I was one of them.

      • Me neither, but insanity appears to be what I signed up for somehow! It’s why I like my garden: quiet, no back-talkers, and I at least get BACK what I put into it. Kids are sooooo the other way around. LOL

        Angie, I’m stressing but all over good things, so can hardly call it stress — we’ll call it busy-ness. My blogging engine is not revving up too quickly I’m afraid. Well wishes for both you and Karen, and the host of others I hold dear to my heart. Just because I’m not around much doesn’t mean I ain’t thinking of you or popping in to have a quickie chat. It’s all I got some days. 🙂

        Anyone’s posts Freshly Pressed lately? I’m so out of the loop. Drop me a line anytime.

        Cheers, girls!

      • I’ve been out of the blogging loop too. Sometimes work calls and it’s either blogging or dinner, ya know?

        Gardening, our veggies don’t talk back but they get diseases and holes and bugs and die on us. I have to admit having my kids tell me what’s wrong is easier. If we lived closer, you could help me out.

        How’s homeschooling?

      • Not started yet! Picked a curriculum though and will school 2 of 4 in earnest beginning June when public school’s officially out. Mostly it’s to get boys and me used to the system. Much of the work is Internet-based.

        Right now, we’re moving from house to apartment, but apartment has a pool right outside our door. Can you guess where we’ll be most the hot summer? LOL. It will really help the 4-mos to fly by, I’m sure. A bit like camping — only less rustic..

    • Yeah, maybe I do have regrets. It’s funny because I’m not a perfectionist by any means. I think the word is–um, lazy?

  12. Oooo, this post’s timing is dead on. I just signed an infraction note from the music teacher: my son has missed six straight weeks of music class not bothering to bring his recorder. He thought it would just go away!!

    Hm. He’s gone from performing a mediocre Hot Cross Buns to Smoke on the Water, Happy Birthday, and my high school fight song (yes, I still know it)…and it BETTER sound good for this mama and even make me wanna dance or sing. At the very least, it should welcome my removing fingers from my ears, otherwise a certain 5th grader could very well miss out on dinner or computer time.

    Yep. This one’s gonna hurt (him, not me).

  13. Love your blog. I had to learn the recorder at school…hideous instrument. My boys aren’t old enough to do play the recorder, but I am NOT looking forward to it.

    As for practice, well, I’m doing that with my writing too. I read some of my old blog posts yesterday and realised I have improved. Hooray to that!

  14. Ah the humble recorder. Thanks for bringing back memories.
    Kelly ♡

  15. My daughter has a recorder concert next week and you just helped me realize that I haven’t heard her practice for it once. I’m not really sure how I want to handle that…

    • Sit in the back. Good luck!

      I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to hear my son perform for his teacher every week. He was doing really well on Tuesday and then Wednesday I was inspecting the recorder to see whether it was broken. I thought it had to be the way he bangs it all the time–and the way it suddenly sounded.

  16. Like you, I need instant gratification and my 23 month old seems to be like his mother! he screams when he doesn’t get it right the first time. I guess your son will have patience once he will find something he truly enjoys as for your daughter; it’s great that she is patient. My husband is so calm and patient in everything he does, I admire patient people! 🙂

  17. I loved this post…it took me right back to being that kid, only the recorder was a flute and I hated to practice. Mom told me I’d appreciate the skill of playing one day, but I didn’t….until years later when I learned to love it & I got to go to college with a full scholarship. It takes a great Mom to grit her teeth & bear the most annoying and frustrating of their kid practicing without breaking the instrument over their knee themselves…it’s even more of a miracle when that Mom finds the grace to be encouraging! Thanks for your post!

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