Yesterday my daughter had her primary school end-of-year violin recital. I was running a little late, and when we got there we discovered that their teacher was unable to make it, she’d called in an anxious fit to say that she’d been waiting for a taxi for some forty minutes now, and the dispatcher’s promise of “he’s on his way” had come to naught. By this time the parents were neatly seated in rows in the school music room and the students had their music on their stands and their violins in hand. We weren’t given any introductions to students or titles, but they played through their repertoire and lifted their bows and bowed as they’d been taught, and we duly applauded. They’re our kids. They were lovely.
The teacher called me late yesterday afternoon while I was cooking dinner, wildly apologetic about her no-show. I told her, as I’m sure every other parent she spoke to did also, how extremely proud I’d been of the children, and how wonderfully they’d presented themselves and their concert without any external help or direction. The teacher said to me, as she’d probably said to every parent she called, “But they always need so much help, in tuning their instruments and in remembering how to stand…” Sure. I think one of the instruments needed a little tuning, but the point is, they did it. She’d taught them, and they knew, and when she wasn’t there they did it anyway.
I told their teacher about how my eldest had learned to ride a bike. We’d been at the park, the boys were to play on the playground equipment while I ran next to her and kept her safe while she rode. My littlest boy fell off the slide, so I left my trainee-rider on the path and went to comfort him. By the time I’d got back she’d got bored and decided she could ride a bike without me. And she could.
My youngest is the same. He learned to ride a bike the other week (so proud!!) although he hadn’t yet mastered the skill of starting himself off, so I had to be there to steady the bike while he got his feet on the pedals, and give him a little push-off. Last night I wasn’t available when he wanted to ride, so he, having watched a small friend from kindergarten do it, gave it a go himself.
Now I know full well that my daughter would never be able to play a note on the violin if it weren’t for her teacher. Nor would my children be able to hoon around on their bikes without a few years of riding with training wheels, but it was interesting for me as a parent to reflect on what happens when those supports are not available. If you teach them they will learn. If you put in enough ground-work, if you keep reminding them of the basics, no matter how much or how little confidence they may possess in their abilities, sometimes they’ll surprise you and fly.
Made me wonder, what other areas, in my kids and in myself, do I need to take off the training wheels?