The other day I was sent this little life-changing morsel: http://www.hedyyumi.com/about-us/ted-talk/. Ok, so if you didn’t want to sit through 20 minutes of life-changing talk (though I encourage you to take the time later), I’ll summarize for you because that’s just how nice I am. She speaks about the 3 invisible connectors between people: The Space, The Bridge, and The Encounter. The Space is where the relationship lives between two people – the sacred space. The Encounter is the resonance that physically occurs between 2 brains that has been proven to actually calm our central nervous systems. How we get to the Encounter is to cross The Bridge. The Bridge connects the space of two individuals and you cross it by taking a deep breath, being present, leaving your “stuff” on your own side of the bridge, and crossing over to meet someone in THEIR world. While I feel I am doing a rather inadequate job of explaining a really beautiful concept (watch the video – I’m telling you, it has transformed my week), this will suffice for the back-drop of my lovely encounter with my 5-year old, Max.
Max has been in music since he was a baby – first in Music Together classes where we sang songs, used lots of hand gestures, “played” lots of instruments and generally danced and were silly (although, evidently all of this has been highly studied and while we jump around like bunnies and swoosh colorful scarves we are actually teaching our children a plethora of complex musical concepts). Well, let’s use “we” lightly here. I did all of these things while Max sat comfortably in my lap or perched on my arm. While other children danced and swayed, Max observed and occasionally smiled. I persisted because, well, a) I love that darn class – I LOVE to sing, if any of you have forgotten this point, even if I don’t do it well, so any chance to go sing and be silly was right up my alley (I noticed the looks from the other moms, who were less enthusiastic about singing “John the Rabbit” while hopping across the room, but I didn’t care), and b) while Max didn’t “participate” in class, I noticed him doing these things later at home, sort of a closet-participant if you will. Also, music is linked to math skills in children AND Mark and I agreed that music was something we wanted them exposed to and brought up with, so voila…me and Austin Lyric Opera became very good friends.
When he became too old for Music Together, I had another child so I could keep going, and I promptly put him into Music for Mozarts, a small group class to learn the piano. He put up with it for a year and a half but lately has insisted that he hates it and never wants to play again. I take partial blame for this because I have been CRAP at setting up any structured time for this little thing called, ahem, practice. Yes – that one little key ingredient to learning anything new, let alone something as complex as learning the piano! So, as it got harder, he has grown to hate it more. Totally my bad. So now, after deciding music would be something we would value in our household I realized that I had burnt my son out at the early age of 5 and he was insisting that he hated it. Not the result I was looking for while we shook our egg-shakers and sang sweet songs in Music Together classes a short time ago.
Yesterday, Max and I got to talking about music. He was sitting at the kitchen table, across from me, like I was hanging out with a friend, having coffee. Already, it seemed like a rare and special moment. I suddenly thought about the video. I put my feet on the floor, I took a deep breath, I looked him in the eyes, and I ventured across that bridge. Before I took my first step, however (wondering if I was going to do it right), I dropped a couple things off at the toll booth on my side. I dropped my desire for him to love music. I dropped off my secret fantasy for, if not a musical prodigy, at least a child who took naturally to music and got as much out of it as I …..um, as I think my mom wanted ME to as a child. I really appreciate that I learned it (piano and saxophone) growing up, but I didn’t even start music until elementary age and honestly, it was never really my “thing”. So I dropped off even the notion that it was a NECESSARY skill or that not learning it would hinder his development as a well-rounded human being. I actually opened myself to the idea that we would quit music indefinitely, until HE raised the interest again. Tiger-mom would not approve.
After my deep breath, and feeling like I had ventured over, lighter from dropping off some baggage, I said, “Max, here’s the thing. I sign you up for music and other things because I want you to be exposed and to have fun. That’s it. If you really hate it we can re-think it” (honestly, I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I’m improvising and we’ll all get the gist).
He stared back into my eyes, “But I hate it. It’s boring.”
Hearing him and letting him know I heard him I replied, “I know. You don’t like piano. I get that.” And then the following came to me. That we were using Music and Piano interchangeably, so I added, “but music is a big thing. Music could mean whatever you want it to be. It could be the violin… it could be the trumpet (I was trying to go random on purpose to get him thinking)… it could be ANY instrument in the world!”
A grin grew as I saw the wheels turning, and he spoke slowly, “Well, I would like to learn….the drums.” On the word drums, his smile (and he has one of the best smiles on this planet) exploded. My face automatically reflected his.
“Yes!” I replied, perhaps too enthusiastically, as my desire for him to like music snuck back in. “Drums! We can do drums!” I thought of my friend/parent & life coach (one day I’ll figure out a succinct way to describe her), who had SENT me the video AND who also happens to play the drums! It suddenly struck me as odd that I had never thought of the drums for Max on my own.
And that was how it worked. I consciously decided to connect, to honor the space of our relationship. I took a few steps to get there and like that, we had an encounter. No expectations or disappointment. A simple conversation where I got to learn something else about Max – that he wanted to learn how to play the drums! Isn’t that why we have kids, anyway, to experience the world through their eyes? Well, it’s a reason I had children, so I’m so grateful to have been sent the video that reminded me – if I want that, then sometimes I have to have the courage to close my own and let them show me the way.
OK, now go watch the video:).