Every time another mother mentions to me that she is on the way to music lessons with her children I feel a quick stab of fear. Music lessons! We should be doing music lessons! My children should be exposed to music because if they are not I will never know if they are “musical” or not.
(Which makes me hope they are not. Which is wrong. Right?) Because if they are children born naturally gifted musically, I am the mother who just didn’t bother. Who let them melt their brains on the Xbox while I drank cups of tea, read Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (excellent, excellent book) and said “Shag their talents, I’m enjoying this. Now where are the biscuits?”
What I really don’t want is to hear that one of them is “musical” when it is too late to do anything about it. And actually, what I sort of do want is to hear are stories about people letting their children give up piano and guitar because they just got sick of doing it. (Yay! So the whole “good ear” thing meant nothing!)
My mother was a secondary teacher in the school I attended. So she knew my classmates well. She used to say things like “Mary’s a lovely girl, and they’re such a musical family." “Musical” She even said the word in an irritatingly singsong way. This make me feel first guilty for giving up piano after about six lessons, and then irritated with Mum for making me feel guilty, and then irrepressible hatred of said Mary.
“She’s got a weird face though” I would retort which got earned me a hurt, cross look.
“That’s a particularly nasty thing to say, Lucy. And I think she has a nice open face.” The ultimate insult as far as I was concerned. I think if anyone’s mother had ever said that about me I would have shot myself.
“Does she not have any friends?” Mum would continue, worrying and making me feel so bad that I would give up trying to follow the Cosby Show and announce a trip upstairs to study. There, I would put my Suzanne Vega tape on the radio cassette player (“But Mum! It helps me concentrate!”) And stare blankly at my books. Reading the words “Agrarian outrage…” I usually pondered on issues such as whether my pencil skirt will be the right thing to wear to a party that weekend.
So in an effort to raise children unlike myself, I’ve enrolled the elder two in recorder. Thus far, their teacher has reported that they are “Getting on grand.” Which is exactly what I wanted to hear.