We were in New York a few months ago, and of course we played with every animal we saw because my kids are, at this point, probably more farm than city. And of course we had the violin and the cello because we travel with them everywhere because we practice every day, no matter what.
And I had this idea that I wanted photos of the kids, but I didn’t want normal, boring portraits. A while back I found the photographer, James Maher, and I was blown away by his street photography. And then I saw he sells his most popular prints to guardians of visual taste, like Tiffany. So I became obsessed with him, and then I cut a deal with him to hang out with us in New York City and take photographs for a day.
It’s amazing to see your life through someone else’s eyes, but that’s what I got with James. And one thing I realized was that we spend a lot of time practicing.
I would have to say that James got the most shots of two things: the kids practicing and the kids fighting. Which is probably an accurate representation of their lives.
And you know how you can tell you’re working with a great photographer? He takes a kid who is being an insanely picky eater and makes it look like art.
So in New York, my son decided to give quitting violin another whirl.
It was practice time and he said he wasn’t practicing.
I said he was.
He said, “I’m quitting.”
So my son practices every day. I have never met a family who did not have arguments between the mom and the kid while the kid was young and learning an instrument. So a lot of the Suzuki Method is the mom learning how to fight about practicing without making the kid hate music.
My son has been playing since he was three years old. The test to know if a kid is ready to learn to play a violin is if the kid can stand in one place and sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
The the kid spends a year learning how to play the song. I’m not kidding. A string instrument is incredibly difficult. Just learning how to hold the bow takes a three-year-old a few months.
My son is nine. So we’ve had six years of fights. And now I’m writing this blog every day, where I tell everyone how great it is that we unschool and kids can teach themselves and kids know what they’re passionate about. It’s hard to align the Suzuki Method with unschooling. I’ll admit that.
I told him I’m considering it and he should give me time to think.
This is exciting to him because I have told him for as long as he can remember that he can quit when he’s in high school, and he only recently realized that he’s not going to go to high school so there is no quitting opportunity on the distant horizon.
He said he’s quitting now.
I said he’s practicing now.
He said he’d only practice if I pay him.
I ignored that.
We were staying with my friend Lisa, at her apartment. She said to him, “You should go play in Central Park. Open up your case. See if people put money in.”
My son got excited.
She said she read in the New York Times that the amount of money you get depends a lot on how good your sign is.
He said, “I’ll write: Violinist. Please pay me.”
Lisa said, “No. That’s not going to work. It needs to be clever. Like you’re asking them to pay you but with something clever.”
We all thought for a minute and Lisa said, “How about I told my mom I’m quitting violin and she said people would like hearing me play. If you like hearing me play, put money in my case.”
My son said. “No. I don’t want that. I don’t want to tell people I’m quitting. I worked too hard at violin to quit. Let’s just ask them for money.”
I wanted to jump for joy and kiss my son and kiss Lisa and kiss the world that my son does not really want to quit. But I played it cool. I said, “Okay.”