On finishing what we start, and knowing when to quit.

I gave up competitive swim team 2 weeks into my senior year of high school, basically because I wasn’t the best anymore and my younger (10th grade) sister could out swim me.

Only one season before “completing” my career, I just quit. Never mind the 10 years of time, energy, and money OH THE MONEY my parents put into my talents, I was just done and I didn’t care about anyone but myself.

Hindsight, I regret my decision.

I’m pretty sure I broke my parents hearts for not finishing out my senior year in the pool. But regardless of what they wanted, they let me make my own bad decision. A decision that I would regret as an adult, but a decision as a teen I needed to make for myself.

Piper and Nola started violin this year. One of my children flourished and thrived, while the other went kicking and screaming to each and every practice and performance.

I’ll give you two seconds to figure out which of my daughters hated being told what to do, and how to practice.

It was early on into the season that she decided she hated it, despite having a blast at the twice a week practices. She adored the friends she made, and she fell in love with her teachers (except for that one teacher that made her play laying down looking up at the ceiling, that wasn’t fun).

But whoa girl, each and every day we asked her to practice, and each and every day we made her go to group lessons, we were met with exceptional resistance.

It’s been a year of Level 18 on the Nola Rage scale. And we’re beat down and tired.

So we asked her to make the decision.  She could quit if she really wanted to, but still needed to finish out her commitment of the season.

Tonight was her last performance, and she did so great. She was adorable, and I know she had a really fantastic day. The tiniest little blonde head in the group, that was my girl.

8749628303 99c4bdc9aa On finishing what we start, and knowing when to quit.

But this was her last performance. Even as we bounced out of the symphony hall high on adrenalin and a post-performance capri sun, I whispered in her ear and asked her if she was sure she wanted to be done.

Yes, she stilled wanted to be done, and I respect that.

As we walked back to our car, we decided to reward ourselves by popping into a candy store adjacent to the orchestra hall. I told both Piper and Nola to take a few minutes and pick out one piece to celebrate a job well done. As we were shopping, another family from the orchestra had the same idea.

The boy (who was a junior in high school) and his mom over heard that Nola had just retired and was hanging up the violin. The older and “wiser” mom looked at me and made it clear that “she pushed her kid” and I shouldn’t give up so easily on Nola. Her 17 year old son rolled his eyes at me and basically made it clear he does not enjoy playing his instrument, but his mom makes him.

She then went on to say that “he’s going to play in college whether he likes it or not, because he’s going to get a scholarship.”

You guys, I’m going to parent exactly opposite of this woman.

Sure there are things we have to do. We have to go to school. We have to keep our room tidy-ish. We have to show respect and kindness to those around us, and we have to obey most of the laws our government has set before us. These things are not options.

But we don’t have to play the violin, or swim, or enter the spelling bee if it makes us miserable. If we start, we must find a reasonable stopping point, but the agony doesn’t have to go on indefinitely.

Everyday I wake up and this parenting thing gets harder and harder. I want to be supportive, without cracking a whip. I want my kids to stay strong and never give up, but know when it’s ok to throw in the towel and not feel shame.

This girl has no shame, only a sense of pride and accomplishment that she played her last piece, The Happy Blues.

8755651872 8fe828389e On finishing what we start, and knowing when to quit.

Celebrating her violin retirement with a fancy sucker reward. She’s my fierce and determined girl, and I love her.

Comments

comments

Comments

  1. Amen. I had no idea how hard it was to standby and watch your kids make decisions you think (or know) are not the right ones. But it’s so important to let them do so.

    I had dreams of my girl being a math-a-lete. She was OK with it last year. This year, she started complaining about it in January. Which was not awesome, since Dad is one of her team’s parent volunteers. We made her go to every practice, but allowed her to skip the competition. She’s done with it, and will pick something else next year. (why a math-a-lete? strippers don’t have that on their resume)
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  2. She is completely adorable.

    My daughter wanted to quit ballet a few years. We made her finish out her commitment, and then after her recital she was done. Until she saw her cousin in “The Nutcracker” the following December and decided she missed being on stage. She still doesn’t love going to class every week, but her love for being on that stage so far is overruling her desire not to practice. :)
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  3. I so love the love you have for your little birdie.
    Casey-moosh in indy. (@mooshinindy) recently posted..even if it’s just for a moment.

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  4. I think you all did the right thing.
    Also? She is incredibly adorable.
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  5. Two related thoughts… my mother made me quit ballet when I was in 4th grade because it would have meant driving to the next town twice a week. I wanted to continue, but that was the only option and she wouldn’t do it.
    Two years later she willing me drove me at least once a week to the same town for flute lessons because it was something she wanted. I never practiced at home (luckily I had natural talent) and continued with private lessons all through high school. I got no scholarships out of the deal, but I do sometimes enjoy playing (although haven’t touched it since my girls were born).
    The thing is, I hated that SHE was the one that got to make the decisions about what was important. I don’t plan to sign my kids up for every activity simply because with 4, well, we can’t. But I will let them choose, finish out a season if they don’t like it, and choose again. I will NOT put them in the box of what I think is important. Even if I “know” that it will be something they can keep with them longer than ballet.
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  6. Emily, we have been exactly where you are. We signed Elena up for violin when she was 4. Girl loved her teacher, loved the stickers, HATED the violin. Making a 4-5 y/o practice something they don’t want to do down to their core is torture. Mike has a strong musical background and felt really strongly that she should be in some kind of music program. So we moved on to piano. Horrid. Then we gave her a choice and she chose guitar. She played for 2 years and was okay with it, but again … practicing at home? Almost always ended in yelling or tears. My gut, like yours, told me it was enough. She’s a kid, but she can choose. And so we quit and she hasn’t done a single musical thing (other than Girls Rock! camp once a summer) in 2 years.

    Fast forward to this spring and she came home from school absolutely giddy to join band. No prompting from us, no dropped hints that she might want to consider it, all her own idea. Who knows, she may find out she hates it too, but at least then she’ll know, on her own terms, that music (other than belting out bad pop tunes) isn’t her thing.

    Besides, life is too short (and the alcohol supply too expensive) to drag a kid and their innocent sibling bystanders to stuff they really can’t stand. Bravo to Nola for finishing it out, though!
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    Emily Reply:

    I like the way you parent. We should hang out more….

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  7. I make them finish out team sports – others are counting on them, but the oldest once quit ballet 2 months before the recital. I made her finish out the month we had paid for, but it wasn’t worth 2 more months and a recital fee to have the fight twice a week.
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    Emily Reply:

    oh yes, I get that. I basically made her finish because we had paid for it, and I was taking Piper regardless.

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  8. She’s adorable! And, I agree with you, give your kids the opportunity but if it makes them miserable, let it go. I had a similar issue with my two sons…I put them in something I thought would be fun as it involved parents too, but they hated it. So, we gave it a year and let it go. There’s so much more to life than being unhappy doing something.

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    Emily Reply:

    agreed. We’re going to find something new for nola, something per her choosing. I’m hoping hula hooping or something…

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  9. Knowing yourself and having the balls to let people know it, takes you places. And that girl is going places.
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  10. Getting scholarships is a great thing, but not for something that you don’t like to do. That’s just poppycock!

    You’re such a good mum, Emily. xo

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  11. The other woman was probably my aunt. ;) My parents insisted we finish out a season for a sport, or the year commitment we gave to band but then we could move on. No pressure. But if we started it, we must finish it.

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  12. I hear ya, lady. And I think you made the right decision. The key, I think, is making them finish out the commitment they made and then respecting them enough to make the decision that they feel is right for them (with plenty of options to change their mind up until the bitter end).
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    Emily Reply:

    totally agree. I wasn’t going to make her continue. Because let’s be honest, it was making home-life kinda miserable…

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  13. We always had to finish the season but never had to continue if at the end of the season we were done. I did help Anna push through the dip of guitar this year but then she quit for about a month and while we found a new teacher who helped her fall in love with playing {and perhaps it is because he is a 13 year old boy? Whatever it may be, she is getting good and losing herself in playing so practice is no longer practice}.

    That being said, she’s quit basketball, tennis, piano, gymnastics, & probably something else I’m forgetting over the last 8 years. :) My guess she’ll quit the clarinet after one year of Middle School band but I could be wrong.
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    Emily Reply:

    But at least you’re exposing her to so many different experiences? Nola is DONE with violin, but I think so dancing or gymnastics is in her future…

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    Cherie Reply:

    Sounds like a plan!

    And also volleyball. She quit volleyball. And cheerleading.
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