I am proud today.

I know. I’ve got to watch it. But I couldn’t help the emotion ballooning.

Our son didn’t win a medal. He didn’t bring home an A for his homework.

BUT

Our son’s cello teacher told us that he was a good student and that he had potential. Now that he has grown to handle a full sized cello, she encouraged us to buy him his own instrument.

She even mentioned a community orchestra in the next suburb he could join.

He isn’t a polished musician. He struggles with his scales and he still squeaks a bit, but he plugs away at it because he likes music.

But before I knew it, I was already starting to dream big dreams for him. With the right pushing who knows what he could achieve? My tiger mum instincts came out roaring.

My husband was quick to douse my enthusiasm.

“Let the boy be,” he tut-tutted.

He was right of course. Our son was a good student because he enjoyed music. He showed promise because he liked what he was doing.

The last thing our son needed was his over zealous mother, who really didn’t know much about music, bossing him to practise for hours. I was this close to ruining it for him.

So I bit my tongue. Sort of. Well, I did encourage the idea of taking part in that community orchestra.

“But mum, it’s on a Saturday!” cried my horrified teenager.

“Well, it would be something interesting to do instead of watching YouTube the whole day,” I respond.

“But I LIKE watching YouTube all day!”

I pushed harder. The boy was close to tears. His father heroically intervened by saying we will find out more about it — how long it goes for and the commitment required.

“Aggie, let’s just wait and see what we find out first, before rushing into this,” my husband muttered with one eye on our boy and the other on me.

All very sensible.

And frustrating.

I wasn’t raised like this. I was supported and pushed to achieve when I was younger. It wasn’t an easy path, but I got the results.

Then again, it all doesn’t matter now. That life didn’t make me happy. And I found a large chunk of my life sometimes difficult to endure.

You’d think I would learn from experience. But that pride and ambition is difficult to set aside, especially when you want the best for your child.

Ha! “The best”. What is the best any way?

In my heart of hearts I want my son to live a life of meaning and purpose. Something that would make him want to get up in the morning and fight another day. A life that is filled with God’s goodness, mercy and provision poured out to him every day. One that will always assure him of God’s overwhelming love for him.

When he was little, our boy would say to me as I left for work, “Work hard mum. Do good. Inspire someone today.”

The memory still makes me smile. He knew what made me tick. Even when he was ten years old.

So I stopped pushing. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t what I was used to. But I also found the results of what I was used to not worth it in the end.

In the end I found something better. I found faith and amazing, wonderful experiences followed. It helped me through many difficulties and made me so thankful for the good times.

I didn’t expect it to change my life so radically.

I am still proud of my son. I love the fact he enjoys music in a way that I do not.

But I also love that he is growing up to be a boy who waves to people selling the Big Issue in our neighbourhood. A boy who shows kindness to people and animals. I am proud of the young man he is slowly becoming.

And I am grateful God has blessed me with this human for a while.

After much frustration, I’ve come to the sad and uncomfortable conclusion that our boy doesn’t need to be a super star musician if he doesn’t want that path. That “best” needs to be what’s best for him.

And once again, my love has unmasked my failings. It’s shown me how my own ambition and worldly pride can so easily cloud his needs and wants.

I know I must hold off my “enthusiasm”, wait for him to find his way and be his cheer squad when he needs it.

But to be fair, no one told me how difficult that is to do.

10 Comments

  1. This is so beautiful! I saved it to read it through again and think about it before replying. Thank you for your candor and heart in sharing this. Oh, don’t we all have those “Tiger Mom” moments, in one way or another? Wanting the best for our kids–and pushing them toward it, without always thinking: what is the best for this particular kid? And musical talent is something I greatly admire to (and don’t possess), so I totally understand where you’re coming from! I was always the one to push myself, hard, but really I hope I can save my pushing for my boys to be kind and generous and “normal.” I sometimes think it’s a blessing that one of my guys is totally not like me–doesn’t worry so much about grades, is fun-seeking and social (he’s my animal lover!), and will try just about anything. I was so laser-focused as a kid–and then when those dreams fell away, I had to remake myself. Your essay is a lovely reminder that our kiddos will make themselves, with a little help from us, yes, but maybe not at the “Tiger Mom” level. And, no, it surely isn’t easy to let this happen!

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    1. Thank you so much for your beautiful response Rebecca! I am glad to know I am not alone. It’s difficult watching and supporting without trying to control the outcome. Scary too. Because we want to protect our children from pain. And the last thing we want to do is to watch them make mistakes or miss out on opportunities.

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  2. I wish I’d read this a decade ago when I was in the same position with my son and his music. The only thing that makes me feel a little less ashamed of trying to foist the sort of childhood I hated onto him, is knowing that as an adult he does make music — just on his own terms.

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  3. Oh, mama…so much emotion in this post. It is so hard to know what is best for our children. I understand your wanting to push your son to set his musical sights high; that is how you were raised. But you are so honest about how these demands made you feel growing up. Sometimes I think we practice our parents methods because it is familiar and what we know. We are afraid if we don’t we will fail. You have to trust and love and nurture and support and provide the opportunities. Ultimately, I think you can agree that you want music to be a part of your son’s life for many, many years to come. Just one thought; is there another time of the day/week where he can relax and watch youtube videos? Maybe you can find a compromise?

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    1. Thank you Regina 😁 I agree. I would love him to enjoy music for many more years to come. And it would be a shame to miss out on amazing opportunities because of YouTube videos. I just know once he gets out of his shell, he would love playing with the community orchestra. And it would be so good to see him make some good friends through it. I’ve thrown out my dream of his stellar musical career. I just think he will enjoy playing music with people. I think we’ll start next term. That way he can get used to the idea. And we can make arrangements for YouTube sessions some other time.

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      1. I totally get it! It is hard to walk the line between letting things happen organically or telling them “listen to me! don’t make the same mistake as me.” Kids aren’t blessed with consequential thinking which is why the good Lord gives them parents. No easy answers, for sure! Confounded YouTube!

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  4. This is a remarkably enlightened introspection. When I was eight, I used a pair of my father’s medical scissors to cut the strings in my mom’s, old, family butterfly grand in protest of mandatory piano lessons. Destroyed both the instrument and my relationship with my mom. As an adult, both the act and the result are among very few regrets. Finding the balance between encouraging such a wonderful, lifelong skill and the once-in-a-lifetime joy of experience youth is such a difficult task as a parent. Somehow, I think you (and your son) will do okay.

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    1. I was too terrified of my parents to do anything like that. Although I did dream about it many times! I’m chanting “can’t make a horse drink” to myself when I get the urge to push my son into doing something he hates. Praying that with enough time, he will warm to the idea of joining the community orchestra!

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