I have big plans for my babe.
Like most parents, I cannot help but indulge in the impulse of an occasional daydream: How will this child, whose nose I wipe without disgust, diapers I change with minimal complaint, and favorite books I read ad nauseum, turn out once he finally functions independently of me?
In my musings, I shake my head and shudder at the football pads that my son, Oliver, might wear. I discount any interest in soccer those nimble feet might be prone to. The notion of Student Council speeches, All-State debates, and Harvard Law do not enter my consciousness. My visions are clear.
My hope lies in the band.
Don't get me wrong, more than anything I want what we all desire for our children: happiness, safety, and health. And really, I do not even care what instrument he plays. Percussion would make for exciting practice sessions, a flute case can be conveniently thrown into a backpack for easy transport, a tuba would surely equate a grand personality. It's up to him.
I just envision Oliver sitting first chair, leading his section with grace and bravado. I see him in an ornate uniform striding down the middle of the football field during the halftime show with perfect tone and crisp movement. I see him laughing over accidental notes and sore lips from sound aperture.
No matter what the experts say about unhealthy expectations and undue pressure, can we, as parents, help but project our dreams onto our children? And in this particular instance, will my subtle "encouragement" (plastic instruments, Musical Munchkin classes, mad applause after anything that sounds remotely melodic) actually destine my child to a life of unpopularity and high school doom?
I am aware of the term "band geek" and the social hierarchy present in our country and in our school systems. As a former high school teacher, I noticed the cliques and the status that each command. My own experience, some dozen years ago, reflect exactly that. I was usually the first chair French hornist and the president of my high school band. This did not come without occasional ridicule and raised eyebrows.
However, I am also aware of the increasing violence occurring at high school sporting events. Parents rush the field to sock the coach or other players when they feel their son or daughter has been wronged during play. Hometowns turn 16-year-old boys into gods and heroes. There is an increasing pressure on students, especially boys, to train harder and run faster. Eight-year-olds endure the injuries of grown men by over-training and 15-year-olds take "supplements" to perform better.
I realize that there are many benefits to being a part of an athletic team. I respect the fact that Oliver's paternal uncles, aunts, and grandparents were college athletes and have a great love for games. We all know that teams can teach kids valuable lessons about rules, respect, hard work and loyalty.
But so can the band, and that fact is too often lost as background noise. Training to be a musician takes discipline, tenacity, hard work, and skill. Playing together as an ensemble requires tremendous concentration and a spirit of cooperation. Yet while sport teams are celebrated and funded, music is cut from schools. Music education is important and when I'm honest about my wildest dreams, I'd like my child to be a witness to that.
My husband, Jake, who makes sure we have plenty of bats, balls, and various rackets in the house, has made me promise not to turn into a "stage mom" or be so overzealous in my advocacy of the arts that our son rebels and shows no interest.
I respect his wishes. And really, I will work hard to respect Oliver as he grows and dreams and discovers. But I also secretly study him for hints of rhythm at the concerts we attend and listen astutely for early signs of perfect pitch. I happily accompany him on the piano as he sings "Twinkle, Twinkle" (sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes not), and have been known to leave a musical instrument or two lying around within his reach, just in case he fancies such amusement.
That's why, several months ago, when my husband and I were awoken by the sound of our then two-year-old up frolicking in the middle of the night, rather than being angry or annoyed I laughed to find him sitting in the middle of the living room floor "playing" an old trumpet that I keep handy near a basket of toys. It was nearly two o'clock in the morning when little "doot-doots" began drifting into our bedroom. There was Oliver, sitting on a red rug in his robot pajamas, the trumpet almost as long as the legs it lay upon. There rested an old trumpet, a father's caution, and a mother's reverie.