My son outgrew his violin. It’s always a bittersweet time when we move up a size in violins. I saved his first violin. The whole thing is the size of an adult hand. At the time, it looked just right for him and it didn’t strike me as particularly small, but the teacher told me, “Save this one. It will be really precious to you later.”
At the time I thought that no part of the violin would ever be precious to me because it is so hard to practice violin with a three‑year‑old, but now I cherish the really tiny violin, and every time we trade up for a larger one I cherish the one we’re giving up.
So it was a bittersweet day when we brought three violins and six bows to the violin teacher to make a decision about which violin to buy. Luckily, we’re still in the $2,000 range for violins. A full‑sized violin will probably run us about $15,000, but I try to teach him now how important it is to take care of the violin and choose a good one.
So we spend most of the lesson evaluating the violins, including blind listening tests.
I want to tell you he was extremely grateful and had a good time learning about the difference between an Italian violin and a German violin, but to be honest, he bitched about it the whole time.
He said he hates violin. He said he doesn’t want to listen to them. He said he doesn’t want to have to be careful with his violin. I should just get him a cheap one, and then he has a headache and a neckache and an earache, and probably he would have gone on but I told him to shut the fuck up and go to the car.
The violin teacher, Diana, said, “Don’t worry. Sometimes kids are like this.”
But I felt really bad. The violin teacher has been completely amazing to him. She’s been teaching him for five years and she has gone through so much with us. She even got special training on Asperger’s to be more effective with him.
At one point last year I told him, “Fine, forget it. Quit violin.”
But it turned out he didn’t want to. I had called his bluff without even meaning to. So we have a deal that he’ll practice 15 minutes twice a day and he won’t complain.
I should have made a deal that he won’t complain in violin lessons as well, but I’d need an infinite number of deals with him to not want to slam my head into a wall during violin.
So the violin teacher told me to not worry, it happens, and we got in the car and we headed towards gymnastics. Gymnastics is also something he chose, and he loves his teacher, and he loves all the things he gets to do in gymnastics because he made the list of what he does, yet he complains about every single thing every week.
So I said, “You can’t do violin any more, and you can’t do gymnastics any more, and if you can’t pick something and try your hardest, then you have to go to school. School is for kids who need someone else to pick what they’re doing, and school is for kids who can’t try their hardest so someone has to force them to try. If you aren’t able to try your hardest, then you have to go to school.”
And he said, “You can’t send me to school. I’ll try my hardest. I’ll be better. You can’t send me to school.”
I said, “Yeah, you’re going to school,” and then I got excited because I finally picked something he cared about.
Then he said, “I’m not following the rules at school. What do they do if you don’t follow the rules at school? I’m not doing what they say.”
“Then you go to the school for bad kids.”
“Well, I’m not going to follow the rules at the school for bad kids. Then what do they do?”
“Then they put you in military school.”
“What do they do with the kids in military school if they don’t follow the rules, because that’s what I’m going to be.”
I said they put the kids in juvenile prison, and his little brother chimed in, “You can’t send him to school. If he’s going to prison then I’m going with him.”
It was a bit of chaos, but I persevered. I called the nanny and told her that we’re going to take him to school the next day and enroll him. She said the school principal is going to kill me, and I said whatever. It’s his legal right to go to school. We live in the district. She said there’s only two more weeks of school. I said I don’t care. It will have a great effect on him.
He cried for the rest of the day saying, “Please don’t send me to school” over and over, and I kept telling him if you don’t try your hardest and if you can’t pick what you want to do during the day, then you have to go to school because you aren’t managing yourself.
But as it turns out, he was becoming physically ill with the idea of going to school, and I was becoming physically ill with the idea of having to walk into the school district after I had taken my kids out of school to launch an enormous blog to talk about how stupid school is. I didn’t think it would be good for anyone. So I ended up giving in.
The nanny said she was not surprised. My husband was not surprised either.
The only person that was surprised was my oldest son, but since then, he’s been really good at not complaining with the violin teacher or the gymnastics teacher. And it occurs to me that framing our decision to homeschool as a decision to trust him to pick things that he wants to do with his biggest effort is a good way to frame what real life is about as well.