To be good at anything you have to work hard at it. And to be really good at something, you have to work through the hard stuff, and not give up.
What stops us acknowledging that life is hard and it always will be? Do we think sometimes in our brain that it is just hard now? But it won’t be like this for our kids. Oh no. They will have it easier than us. What fools are we when we try over and over again, to prevent our kids from dealing with something difficult, from seeing or acknowledging suffering? Because we never want to see that.
And today with our gadgetised homes, it is so much easier to not expect the kids to do stuff. Up until a couple of generations ago, think about all the kids chopping firewood, herding sheep, cooking while mum has yet another baby, out in the fields plowing and digging, helping pull a lamb out of a sheep, rabbit hunting. They are tough little buggers. Then can actually do a lot more than we give them credit for.
Why do we just want to pretend that when we grow up and become adults it is easy? What makes us think we just want to give our kids a happy childhood because they will grow up soon enough?
Is that hopeful or naive?
What happened to a childhood that gives us the skills to deal with all the crap that really will come our way? What is the point of burying our kids heads in the sand?
Because it is no fun making kids do stuff they don’t want to do. It is actually bloody hard.
So I love that Amy Chua and Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, has ignited a feeding frenzy based on the fact that she makes her kids do stuff they don’t want to do. I like that she has us talking about the fact that to get to be really good at something, we have to spend a lot of time actually getting there. And the time taken to get really good at something can be mind numbingly boring, frustrating and just plain hard.
It can also be highlighted by feelings of euphoria and pride.
Our son has shown absolutely no interest in playing the piano. And before reading Amy Chua’s article my husband and I were having debates. His line was ‘if he wants to do drums just let him’. My line ‘lets get to a certain level on the piano’ and hence musicality and discipline, and then lets discuss the drums. Be rewarded for effort and also gain by learning.
With full knowledge that, in our tiny house, I would be suffering the practices while Dad would be off at work. Gee, I wonder why I am willing to put the drum debate off.
And our son is busy anyway, we are blessed enough to have a child who, most of the time completely occupies himself. So if he is good, why should we be ‘mean’ to him and make him do something he doesn’t want to do?
Anyway, after us both reading Amy Chua’s line, my husband agreed, reckoning the combined benefits of practicing and learning (all that right and left brain stuff), plus the idea of actually making him do something he didn’t want to do, would be a good thing.
And now, four months into learning the piano, you should see his face when he gets a piece right.
I will never have Ms Chua’s parental discipline of the 4-6+ hour practice. I don’t need to see my kid at the top of the fortissimo grandissimo pianissimo pile. And of course my ancestors would look at the life my kids lead, for all my talk about ‘dealing with stuff’ and let me know how completely easy we have it.
But I do want my children to know that life is as much about doing stuff you don’t want to do, as it is the fun stuff. Perhaps even more. Maybe because my childhood was a bit more challenging than some of my peers, more stuff to deal with, do I reason how that slightly tougher childhood has benefited me in many ways. Maybe it is just personality type. Who knows?
But to me, it can be a mean ole world out there and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise.
Endurance. Patience. Consistency. Practice. Pride. Achievement. Self esteem. Joy.
All good stuff.