After a few rough practice sessions with my six-year-old son, I need to stop and ask myself, "Why am I doing this again?"
Up until a few months ago, I had no intention of teaching any of my children the violin. The reasons were numerous: it's hard for parents to teach their own children, I don't want to thrust my personal ambitions onto my children, I've seen competition grow among children who learn the same instrument, etc. The plan was for my kids start piano lessons at age six with their more even-tempered father.
Plans changed when J's six birthday approached, and he begged and begged me to teach him the violin as well as the piano. We already had access to a violin in his size, and so there really wasn't a good excuse for me not to teach him, other than the reasons I listed above, which didn't matter to J.
And so I came up with a set of reasons for teaching my children: Who says a mother can't be a teacher--in fact, are we not supposed to be our kids' best teachers? Who else would I have teach J the violin, when I am a very proficient teacher, not to mention the cost savings? The biggest argument in favor of teaching my son was that as a violin teacher to other children, I am remarkably patient in comparison to how I am as a mother in every day life. Perhaps taking a few minutes a day to play the role of teacher, instead of nagging mother, would be beneficial to our relationship.
I knew it would be challenging, and it has been. My son didn't get the memo that he was supposed to act as the well-behaved student during this time we've set aside for lesson and practicing. I admit that I've lost my cool as I've found my son laying prostrate on the floor whining that this is "too hard!" before I've had the chance to break the assignment down into do-able tasks. I find myself ignoring the sticker chart that was meant to motivate the both of us to stick to our routine. As a teacher, I always warned new violin parents that before long, their children would be begging them to quit. It's funny how hard it is for me to hear this now that the shoe is on my foot!
Yet in spite of every road block, my son manages to slowly improve. Things that he thought would be totally impossible before he can now do with ease. Whenever someone comes to our house, he wants to perform his latest song, and he is positively giddy when he's doing it. And this is what I need to keep reminding myself: that the violin is hard (as is being a parent)--but it is so worth it!