I played the piano (pretty badly) as a child and watched the school orchestra enviously wishing I played an instrument that would qualify me for entry. Having children therefore, provided the perfect possibility of living vicariously through them and watching them learn fabulous, orchestra-worthy instruments.
So when my eldest child finally arrived in Year 2 and brought home a letter about recorder lessons, my fantasies about her becoming a musical prodigy, moving audiences to tears with her magical playing, seemed on the verge of becoming a reality.
Of course living vicariously through one’s children is never really going to work is it? They are their own people and they are frustratingly resistant to being moulded in our image (particularly our idealised, airbrushed image of what might have been).
And so it proved with the recorder.
After a promising start, with a special trip to a music shop to purchase the brown and white recorder that took me back to primary school, things went swiftly downhill.
Practice. There’s the problem. They need to do it and we, the parents, need to coax, bribe, bully or beg them to do so.
But Ana was having none of it. If she couldn’t get it right first time (and I‘m betting even Mozart couldn’t manage that one), then it was game over. The sporadic attempts to get her to practise invariably led to bouts of intense tears from Ana: ‘I am rubbish and I can’t play it!’ and frustrated rants from me: ‘Of course you can’t play it if you don’t practise!’
And then there was the issue of remembering to take the recorder into school on lesson days. Given that I view remembering to take the children to the right place each day to be a major achievement, I felt Ana should take responsibility for remembering the recorder. But it seems she is no better at remembering important things than I am (moulded in my image after all it would seem!). Not for the first time, I discovered that we really do all fall into clichéd parent speak as I found myself declaring with irritation that ‘These lessons cost me £20! If you don’t take your recorder in, then I might as well be throwing that money in the bin!’
Ahead of the end of year recorder concert, Ana and I spent night after night locked in a battle during which I tried (and failed) to stay calm, encourage and cajole her to try her best, but by now the writing was on the wall.
After the concert (a screeching cacophony of recorder squeaks accompanied by Ana’s listless miming) we agreed that she could drop recorder for now.
Maybe next time she could take up the tambourine…