Ben plays the viola; Stefan and Xander are violinists. More that once it’s been suggested that we simply need a cellist to form our own little string quartet.
A quartet was certainly my original plan…..
Nine years ago I was full in the throes of Suzuki-supermom syndrome. Ben and Stefan had a fantastic violin teacher, I was on the board of the state Suzuki society and was surrounded by fabulous women whose children had regular gigs with the Utah Symphony. I could hardly resist putting a cello in little Hansie’s hands.
He was 4 years old.
Then, as now, Hans had a sweet amiable temperament. Obediently, he did the drills, plucked out little tunes and pulled his tiny bow across the strings to coax music out of the stubborn instrument.
I tried to be patient as we went over the simplest of exercises day after day but my calm veneer was rubbing thin. One night we were practicing together when I finally collapsed in frustration. “You’re just not trying Hans!” I accused him angrily. He tossed down his bow in a huff and left the room. I apologized to him before bedtime but I was still upset.
The next morning I went on a long run in the mountains. As I ran I prayed, “Please Heavenly Father, I’m struggling with this little boy! How can I help him learn to play the cello?”
A few miles later my answer came in one of those rare flashes of pure knowledge. For just a fraction of a second I saw Hans as he really is—a noble, mighty son of God. Shame washed over me and I began to cough and sob. I had been entrusted with the care of an eternal being and I was spending time nitpicking at his weaknesses.
I recalled words from C.S. Lewis, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit.” It is an incredibly serious thing to be raising God’s children. I realized I had to loosen my grip on the ten-year plan and look at the eternal one.
While a family quartet is lovely, I was creating one simply to feed my own ego. And Hans! Have you met my darling, funny, sunshine boy? How could I complain about cute Hansie?
Earlier that week I’d been at a baseball game when a neighbor boy came up to bat. He is a polite, sweet boy– winner of the sixth grade spelling bee and a gifted athlete. It was the ninth inning, his team was behind and the bases were loaded.
He struck out.
As he dejectedly walked back to the dugout his father took him by the arm and drug him behind the bleachers. We could all hear him yelling and haranguing. The boy emerged with his shoulders shaking and wiping tears from his eyes. I felt sick as I watched the scene. “Can’t you see who your boy really is?” I wanted to ask the father.
Remorse filled my heart as I realized that my behavior with the cello hadn’t been much different than the angry father. True, I didn’t yell at Hans in public but I had made it perfectly clear to him that he wasn’t measuring up.
As I began to sift through events in my mind I realized that most of the time I felt unhappy it was because I somehow felt I wasn’t measuring up. I wasn’t smart enough, thin enough, talented enough, etc. Was this the legacy I wanted to pass down to my children?
A tremendous burden rolled of my shoulders as I realized “I don’t have to compete! My children don’t have to compete! We just have to do the best we can.”
That run changed me as a mother. We quit cello and Hans took up the piano a few years later. And while I expect my boys to do their best in school, music and sports, I have no desire for them to be superstars. I’m much more likely to ask, “Did you have fun?” than “Did you win?”
I’ve talked to several mothers with similar experiences and I believe that God talks to mothers, He pours inspiration upon our heads even when we are being crazy and competitive cello mommies. Praying over whether our children should take guitar lessons, enroll in soccer or spend more time at home is not only reasonable, it’s wise. The Lord has a vested interest in these small people; he’s eager to provide direction when it’s needed.
Recently a friend asked, “How do you raise such nice boys?” It’s a question I usually hesitate to answer, but she pressed me–“I really want to know.”
“You’re going to think we’re weird.” I whispered, reflecting on the predominate religion in my area, “But we don’t worship sports.”
“No, no, no,” my 18 year old son broke into the conversation, “it’s more that that. It’s not just sports. We don’t worship anything besides God and family.”
And he’s right. Music, academics, soccer, basketball, a boat and the TV have all vied for preeminence in our household, but the constant has been God and family. Any activity that precludes those two priorities has been reduced or removed from the weekly calendar.
We haven’t managed it perfectly, and we’ve learned that our limits are not your limits. You’d surely think I am insane for what I’ve paid in music lessons over the years and I can’t imagine driving from Logan to Cedar City for soccer tournaments.
But somehow, with the Lord leading us by the hand, we can each find the right path for our own family.