If there’s a reason I’m crazy, it’s not because of sharing too much on my blog, or taking my kids out of school. It’s not even for jeopardizing my finances way too often with way too many startups. The reason I’m crazy, if I’m crazy, is that I spend the majority of my waking hours dealing with music lessons.

I do the math all the time and it blows my mind:

  • 14 hours a week of cello
  • 14 hours a week of piano
  • 7 hours a week of violin
  • 20 hours a week of driving to lessons

I am not even adding up all the time I spend scheduling and rescheduling. The endless recitals and practices for recitals. Competitions. Week-long summer camps that don’t feel like camp at all. And how do I factor in the hours I work to pay for the grand piano? And the tens of thousands of dollars I’ll have put into string instruments before the kids go to college.

I’m not even sure what we are getting from all this? Perfect pitch? Carpel tunnel? The self-assurance that we know when to clap during one of Beethoven’s symphonies?

In between all the practicing an driving and worrying, I read about composers. I never used to be this type of person. A music person. I think that’s why I wanted my kids to play instruments—because I wish I had. And because I knew nothing about music.

Now I read biographies of composers like I used to read People magazine.

Did you know Erik Satie ate only white food? And Handel played piano hiding in his attic because his father wanted him to be a lawyer?

During the Renaissance, playing musical instruments was seen as a sort of blue-collar job. In Venice, where Vivaldi wrote music, the girls in the orphanage played the music. Each girl in the orphanage played an instrument and in church, the girls would play Vivaldi’s weekly composition for the congregation, but the girls were behind a curtain because so many of the girls were deformed and people didn’t want to look at them.

I could go on. I know a lot. But then I think, really? What do I know? I will do my 10,000 hours as my prerequisite for expertise. But what will my expertise look like?

After sitting through years of lessons I can play only a few child-like songs on the violin. I can’t read music. And while I go to almost every lesson and every practice, I can’t say that I’m an expert in teaching a kid to play an instrument. I’m really only an expert in arguing with my kids about practicing.

Which takes so much time that I should actually add that to the total above.

I worry that I’m squandering time on extreme parenting. I worry that it’s ridiculous for the kids to spend so much time on their music. So I was relieved when I saw a study featured in the Washington Post that concludes that studying music helps with children’s emotional and behavioral growth. The researchers found that the more a child studied an instrument, the more their brain developed to promote anxiety management and emotional control.

I read more about the research and the part that really excites me is that as a result of his findings about music, researcher James Hudziak started viola lessons. After a year of lessons he can’t play a single song, but his brain is already starting to show positive changes.

What if we do all these lessons, all this practicing, and the kids never pick up their instrument after age 18? That’s the test, really. Was there intrinsic goodness reorganizing our lives around the kids’ music?

I’m not sure. I want to tell you that it’s enough for me to know that each of us has grown artistically and creatively and even emotionally because of our involvement in music. I want to believe that I won’t feel frustrated if the kids decide to quit.

There is value in quitting, after all. It’s the only path to zeroing in on what you want to do in your life. But I think that’s why I’ve started reading on my own and listening on my own. If there is going to be intrinsic value in what I’m doing with the kids, then I have to be doing something for me, as well. I have to be learning and growing right alongside the kids.

And that’s not just true for music but for all the time and energy a parent devotes to homeschooling. The kids aren’t the only ones who need intellectual and emotional fulfillment on the path to quitting or not quitting.