Pushy mother! How old is that child? Surely he can’t even be a year old? I mean, the above photo does conjure up those kind of thoughts, or maybe not. But yes those are my little man’s hands; and yes that is a proper piano; and yes that’s my knee he’s sat on.
But trust me I’m not being one of those parents! Let me explain. I’m a musician. Although I’m pursuing my dreams of being a writer my day job is a music educator (to be honest to combine the two jobs in a portfolio career is the ultimate dream). I go into primary schools teaching music (generally the recorder) to different classes three days a week. I have to say it’s a lovely job and because of it I’ve seen the joy that music brings. Through my own experiences I know how powerful it is, how much happiness it’s brought to me, how many times in my life it, alongside reading and writing, has been my refuge, my retreat and how wonderful it is to have those tools at my disposal. Having music, reading and writing has always been my mental security, they allow me to express myself, to take myself away from daily troubles, refresh myself and return that bit stronger. And I want my son to have that too.
If he is musical then music will be one of the tools in his toolbox to help him cope with life. If he’s not musical, well, he’ll find some other refuge which is ok, as his mum I just want him to be happy and content.
So music. How much is it a part of your life? To be honest, whether or not you’re a musician, I think that music is a part of pretty much all our lives. It’s so often present in the background, be that on the radio or TV, in shops, restaurants, cafés and bars. Music is quite hard to avoid.
Unsurprisingly our house is always pretty musical. In fact my husband and I got together after playing the leads opposite each other in an amateur production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel ten years ago. We both love to sing, we love watching musicals or concerts, we have similar tastes in music (although he does draw the line with some of my choices!), I chill out by playing the piano not very well (my main instrument is the flute) and it’s just a natural part of our lives. So when our little man came along we didn’t really do anything different, I remember singing to him whilst I was in hospital to calm him, it just seemed the natural thing to do.
Even now I sing to him all the time, both real songs and silly ones I’ve made up, I’m not even that conscious that I’m doing it. You name it I’ve made up a song about it – changing nappies, feeding, having a bath, getting dressed etc. etc. and at the moment my little man loves my songs (he’s the only one who does)! And whilst he does I’ll keep on singing!
Whilst I was pregnant with him I was getting great mileage out of The Greatest Showman soundtrack with the students I was teaching. Now our little man has never been a great sleeper in the day, he’s pretty good at night (I don’t want to jinx anything) but he fights sleep all the time in the day, even when he’s really tired, but the one thing that works to at least make him chill out, if not sleep, is to put on The Greatest Showman soundtrack! He loves it, I’d say it works 99% of the time, and I swear it’s because he heard it so much when he was in the womb (he heard it a lot!).
In terms of instruments I bring him to the piano just for fun, let’s face it to him at the moment it’s like a big toy that you press that makes a sound. I certainly have no intention of being one of those parents. When you’ve taught music for a long time you know that forcing a child to play an instrument is pointless. There is definitely a difference between forcing a child and encouraging them. Naturally I hope that my little man will one day want to play an instrument, it’s a great thing to be able to do as it brings so many more benefits than just the skill of playing – discipline, commitment, social skills, something to turn to when things get tough – to name just a few.
Of course I will expose him to instruments, letting him have a go at the ones in our house and taking him to concerts (he’s already been to some baby concerts at our local theatre), as it’s only by this exposure that he (and we) will know if music is something he’d like to do. That’s what I love about my job, so many children that I teach are getting exposed to learning a musical instrument and some of them discover a joy and a talent that they may never have known they had without that exposure.
At the end of the day music is a gift so why wouldn’t I want to give my son such a wonderful gift? And it’s a gift anyone can give, you don’t have to be a musician to enjoy and benefit from music, it’s for everyone, after all it’s a gift that keeps on giving for a lifetime.