Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Accepting kids for who they are...

Today No 2 had an audition.

This Spring, after clearly detailing how he did NOT want to go to the Cork School of Music next year, I surreptitiously filled out the application form for a musicianship course with an emphasis on wind instruments. I was filled with hope that this motivated little man would take to music if an instrument was placed in his hands.

No 1 bailed out on music a few years ago having ambled along indifferently in a purely academic programme. Logically I understood that music is difficult enough when you are interested and talented. To be disinterested and struggling was madness. Logically, why would you put a child through a weekly lesson and daily practice that would dash self-esteem? However, I am ashamed to say that I still felt disappointed. For me, a music education seems intrinsic to a childhood so I struggled to separate my dreams from the reality of of No1's limitations in this field.

Last week a letter from the Cork School of Music (CSM) lay waiting on the floor of the hallway on arrival home. I was at first fearful of the contents. The envelope revealed an invitation to audition. The to-do list included singing 2 songs, clapping to a rhythm and repeating notes played or sung to him. Now I was scared. God. The poor fellow. To say his singing ear is still developing is kind. The reality is more that he is tone deaf. I had been hoping that learning an instrument where you press prescribed notes would help bypass a need to sing or have a musical ear.

I was in a pit of depression that week to start with and now the potential disappointment of No2 ending his musical education before it even started had a crushing effect on me. God! I was so disappointed. Why could they not just let him have a go at the class for a year? He is a motivated little person who just might become proficient in the right teacher's hands. I know that he cannot sing but surely a six year old cannot be written off before he even has a chance? The most interesting feeling I had was my own feeling of failure. I do not understand it. But a failure as a mother is what I felt. Oh! what I would give to hear a c hild of mine play an instrument to themselves or to a family audience.

On further examination, I realised that I had written him off myself in deciding not to send him to the audition. What was the point, I thought. He will be humiliated. My sister disagreed. She encouraged me to prepare him for the audition and send him anyway. Who knows what might happen?

So, every day we practiced. In the kitchen, in the car, at bed-time. No2 thrived on the attention. He actually started to remind me of our times to practice. And what do you know? ..... he started to improve. His accuracy at hitting the notes moved upwards to about 80%. His rhythm was very good.

My brother-in-law minded the other two children while I took No2 into the CSM. The little Treasure reveled in the time we had to ourselves. He skipped along beside me with glee towards the school and was quite amazed to see his name posted on a notice board announcing his audition time. Outside the room, familiar faces from his own primary school waited also. Conversation revealed that tone deafness was more common than I had realised. Hope sprung.

When he emerged proudly from the audition, I could see the teachers grinning. No2 is quite the entertainer. Once again, skipping along the pavement, he revealed that he sang his song (I'll never know how that went) but I could not ascertain what else was required of him except that he volunteered to whistle for them. Whistle!!?? "Can you whistle?," I enquired. He demonstrated a non-whistle for me and added that when they asked him what instrument he wanted to learn, he pronounced that he wanted to learn the piano. He knew that he should have said the clarinet at a Windwise audition but no, he told them HE wanted to learn the piano.

What will be in the next envelope, when it drops through the door the next time, maybe not what I want to see. However, the feelings I had driving home in the car were full of warmth and love and pride and joy in this precious child. Whatever the outcome, I will accept it.

Watch this space.

Good weather - Woo Hoo!

Doesn't the sun shining just make all the difference in the world? People are nicer, more attractive and more likely to say hello. Driving along you might notice people enjoying a walk or sitting outside coffee shops. Simple activities. They just make me smile. Arriving home after the day, that distant hum of a lawnmower or the charcoal billow of smoke reminds me that it is the simple things in life that are the most pleasurable. Dusty knees and newly freckled faces beam happiness. Everybody! We have made it to summer. Deo gratias.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Just tell me you need a hug

There comes a time in the evening when we are getting tired. Small people can start crying, losing tolerance. Sometimes it escalates into something bigger. I think that this can depend on how I handle things. If I am tired myself and I am not concentrating, I can see this poor behaviour as irritating and fail to recognise it for what it is i.e. "please bring me to bed because I cannot take it anymore". I should know what THAT feels like! Lately I have been trying to teach Jane especially that when she is feeling bad/tired, to just ask for a hug. Hugs make everything so tolerable and the benefits can change the mood instantly. It can start with the tenderness of consolation and finish with a playful jiggle to reintroduce the good humour; I can smell the sweetness of the children, whisper some words of encouragement, remind them of how loved they are and it recharges some really worn out human batteries - for both Mama and Little One. Bring those hugs on!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The first lost tooth

There is a particular grown-up feeling with the first feeling of a wobbly tooth...especially if, like my two boys, you are possibly the last boy in the class without a gap. A six year old can measure his importance by how many teeth are gone. With the full 20 milk teeth, you lose out on thrusting conversations with your pals - the game involved in guestimating how long the tooth will last from first wobble to ejection, to how many euros has been collected from the tooth fairy and of course, what violent act caused the tooth's ultimate demise.

No 2 has been checking regularly for the possibility of even the remotest wobble and last week a tiny wobble was confirmed. It took a week or so to gather its north-south momentum and at last on Sunday it was hanging out by its last sinew. The sweet little fellow mulled over the various merits of leaving it fall out itself versus having it pulled. Being a thinker, he considered the potential pain of a final wrench so being practical he took matters into his own hands and the wee little tooth had its last moment. To see the joy on his victorious little face while holding a miniture, redundant tooth in his hand is one of those moments that you consign to memory. Yet, there is a wistful twin memory of the day that little 'tooteny-pegger' suggested its presence with a tiny white glint and confirmed its presence under the knock of a steel spoon in Summer 2004....and that was after a good few weeks of disturbed nights, several mls of liquid paracetamol and painful, throbbbing gums. For all that effort it just about lasted 6 years. 6 years and 2 months. And a damn good job done.