“Let’s take another look at the bowing here,” I say with thin patience. My daughter has fabulous intonation, a quick musical mind, and control over her fingers that would make 9 year old Joshua Bell green with envy, but she struggles to follow marked bowing, and she struggles to change the direction of her bow.
Every child should play a musical instrument because every child has unique strengths and weaknesses. Playing a musical instrument can help highlight these strengths and encourage growth where needed. Parents will get a glimpse into their child’s inner struggles and hidden talents through their daily practice and musical development.
My daughter has a tendency to get completely focused in one direction and struggles to be flexible when family plans, weather, or schedules change. I struggled to understand how to help her until the other day when I came to the realization that the same cute girl who growls at having to change the direction of her bow is the same girl who fights every change in plans and every new household rule. I have come to know that there are often direct correlations between how a child plays an instrument and a child’s personality, confidence, and learning aptitudes. When we closely pay attention to these correlations, we can learn a lot about a child. Ironically their weaknesses can often times also be their greatest strengths. Lucky for me that is truly the case in my daughter. The same beautifully headstrong girl who refuses to fix her bowing, is the same girl who won’t stop practicing until she can play through a whole song (even if it was just handed to her) AND it’s the same girl who won’t change her wardrobe just to fit in with the popular girls.
It is often said that music is the language of our souls. As my daughter opens herself up to learning music she is also opening herself up to strengthening her character. She is defining and refining who she is. Her strong-will is not lost but is fine tuned through determined violin practice day after day. She will excel with great bedazzlement at forte’s and accents, and never flinch should her bowing get ‘off’ from the status quo. She will wow audiences with her interpretations of songs and leave them saying, “I have never heard it played quite like that before!”, and it will be true. She will write her own music using the suggestions Bach, Beethoven, and Sarasate kindly put down on paper for her. In today’s world who would want their daughter to do otherwise? I want her to be strong for who she is, and her music has taught me that she will be.
But today as I teach my begrudging child to change the direction of her bow, I smile when she’s not looking. Because I know that, today, I am helping her to have a good attitude even when life doesn’t go her way. I’m helping her to put on her ice skates instead of rollerblades when it is a blizzard outside, I’m helping her to be able to say, “I will be okay” even when hard things happen. Not to change her but to change the way that she is able to compassionately and cheerfully relate to others and herself. Not to change her strong personality but to channel it into something even greater. My mom used to say that direction is more important than speed, I couldn’t agree more. Getting our bows to head in the right direction might seem like a small accomplishment, but to my daughter it is a big step forward in becoming a better and happier person.
And perhaps the biggest lesson learned isn’t for my daughter at all! It is undoubtedly for me. It will take some daily practicing on my part to get this lesson down, but because of my darling teacher I know that I can. I am learning to see her unique soul using the language of music. The songs my daughter has taught me have made me a better mom through beautiful melodies of love and patience. It is often challenging music that is filled with accidentals, sharps, flats, very few rests, and many many repeats but because of her I will not give up. I will fill my home with the music of motherhood, I just hope I can play it with as much gusto as my daughter does.
How is music shaping your child? How is your child’s music shaping you? I’d love to hear your thoughts, email me or leave a comment below.