FYI – After Years of Lessons and Torture; your children will just quit everything

We cannot make these little people be who we want them to be.  It just doesn’t work.  This week, after months of begging and negotiating, my 12-year-old middle-schooler, quit band.  As I wrote the email to his band teacher, explaining that my child is quitter and has no interest in music, my life flashed before my eyes.

Well, not my whole life……. but my life as a mother of young children. This particular child, my first-born,  benefitted from my willingness to sit in Kindermusik classes with them when he was an infant.  This child also enjoyed hours of his early life listening to Baby Einstein which I listened to for hours,  in hopes that the tunes of Beethoven would reach the inner-most layers of his brain.

And here I sit, 12 years later, writing an email to his teacher telling him that he wants to quit the band. Let this be a lesson to you mothers who think you will raise the next musical prodigy.  I am here to tell you that if your child is born without a musical gene than you can save yourself hours of torture and millions of dollars on instruments and lessons.  Thankfully, you have me to tell you and don’t have to learn the hard way like I did.

When you have a baby you envision him or her becoming a rock star or a baseball star or a doctor.  Those first years, everything your little one does seems amazing and full of potential.  He might walk or run early, or remember every lyric to the Micky Mouse Clubhouse theme song, or maybe he’s just really cute.

As your child ages, you start to notice their shortcomings a little bit more and rock star might come off the list.

We have to be realistic about these types of things.  It’s quite rare to give birth to a musical prodigy.  For example, Prince taught himself to play the piano, guitar and the drums.  He wrote his first song at age 12.  The Van Halen brothers learned to play the piano at age 6, and formed their first band in the fourth grade.

So basically, by the time your child is 5 – if he or she has not taught himself to read music or played Beethoven on the piano – you can pretty much forget it.

Yet, we are in the midst of modern day American parenting! So of course, we don’t give up hope when the writing is clearly on the wall.  We have to push and try to create a musical prodigy from the sad pathetic sack of flesh that we gave birth to.

It’s only fair and right that you provide some sort of musical experience for them during their formative years.  When Michael was in 2nd grade he decided to play the drums.  We paid for him to have private drum lessons for two years and invested in an expensive drum set.

In our minds this was possibly the beginning of his E! True Hollywood Story.  He could become the best drummer in America.  He would tour the world with his band and Mr. Gaga and I would retire and enjoy his musical success.

He seemed to enjoy it – although he wasn’t exactly a natural drummer.  When in 4th grade he got to be a part of the school band, the simple banging on a snare drum came easily to him.

Because we had a drum set already, we didn’t have to worry about spending money renting some weird filthy instrument like a tuba and then listen to horrible noises coming from his room.

After a couple years of the loud noise that comes from a drum set – somehow you don’t really hear it anymore.

So I gave up the private lessons and saved a lot of money and happily signed the permission slip for Michael to join the school band.  At first, it just meant that once a week I had to wake up a little bit earlier and drive him to school for band practice for 7:45.  Totally doable.

Then somehow, Michael decided he would also join the jazz band, so one more early morning was added to our schedule, occasionally. Then, although he had never even sang a song in the shower, or even maybe sang “Happy Birthday” loud enough for us to hear him, he decided to join the chorus.  One more morning was added to our lives that we had to wake up early.

When we went to his concert last year, he did a great job singing his heart out and banging on one drum.  It seemed worth it that we wake up all those early mornings.

This year, things escalated.  The mornings were the same, but as the concert came closer the early mornings doubled.

As I rolled out of bed bleary-eyed for the third morning in a row, I was disgruntled.

“Michael, you better win a fucking grammy when this is over with,” I said with disgust as I poured my coffee.

“What do you mean?” he asked innocently as he ate his cereal.

I peered at him over my coffee cup and felt for a moment that I was being a bit harsh, “Fine – then at the very least a Billboard Music award.”

Luckily for his mental health, he generally ignores me when I make these types of demands.

The concert went off without a hitch.  There was a series of musical presentations that were in different languages, there was a bunch of songs sung that nobody in the audience had ever heard.

I mean no offense music teachers, but a little modern music wouldn’t hurt.  After all of these early mornings, I would like to be impressed.

Something a little entertaining wouldn’t hurt….

“Why can’t they sing like “Like A Prayer?” or “You Can’t Touch This?” I whispered with annoyance to another mother.

I would like to see this after waking up at the crack of dawn all year.
I would like to see this after waking up at the crack of dawn all year.

All of those mornings…all of those drum lessons…..all of that noise in the basement….

All so Michael could take one pitiful drum stick and ding one pitiful little cymbal….


Later that week, I heard a song on the radio with a clearly good drummer.

“See Michael, why can’t you play the drums like this guy?!” I asked with encouragement as I turned up the sound in the car.

“Well, because Mom, that’s Neil Peart from Rush, the greatest drummer that ever lived.” he said soundly.

He seems to be hitting more than one drum...
At least he seems to be hitting more than one drum…unlike my loser children…

In the meantime, this year I signed Sam up for private drum lessons.

“What?! NO! He can’t play the drums too!” Mr. Gaga said with exasperation.

“Why not? We have a full drum set!” I said, stating the obvious.

“No band has two drummers!” he countered, as though it was even remotely possible that these two idiots would form a band.

“I don’t fucking care! There’s a drum set here that cost $400 and they should use it,” I said. “P.S. – they aren’t going to be in a band – so I am not like listening to a fucking flute for 5 years, because you have some weird pipe dream that your kids are going to be the next Hanson.”

Mr. Gaga deferred to my decision….”Well, Chicago, had two drummers,” he said with resignation.

So a few weeks ago, Sam got his paper sent home, asking him to join the school band.  We were asked which instrument he would like to play.  We signed the “drums” box and then had to choose another instrument in case there were other better 3rd grade drummers.

“I think I would do the tuba,” Sam said with his pencil ready to check the box.

“No!” I screeched and knocked the pencil out of his hand.

We finally agreed on the trumpet – with the understanding that if he actually got selected to be a trumpet player then he would quit the band.

“Because Sam – you can’t be some weird like trumpet playing guy,” I said knowingly. “Nobody actually plays the trumpet at school and then goes on to become a trumpet player.”

“Um, Mom…..actually people do that all the time.” Sam said wisely.

“Ok – well not on my watch, you have better things to do with your time – than blow into some filthy brass instrument that’s been rented 75 times.”

Somehow he agreed with my reasoning. (Whenever I am losing an argument I bring up filth and germs and it seems to work.)

Thankfully, we got confirmation this week that he would be the drum player for the 4th grade band.

I will continue this horrible morning schedule in the hopes that someday one of my children will be the next Tommy Lee.

It 100 percent is a waste of time might be a pipe dream.

But until we are sure…..

It’s America.

Anything’s possible.



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