life Parenting Weekend

Weekend Things

September 9, 2023

Things Happening

✔︎ Gymnastics (currently there!)

❏ Bday parties both days (both G only!)

❏ Piano*

❏ Gathering at our house

❏ Soccer game x 1 (first “away” game, thankfully only ~30 min away, near where I work!).

Can you tell how hot it is out there?

Things to Do:

✔︎ 18 mi long run (capping off a 60 mile week!)

❏ Record BLP September Q&A episode. I usually do these on Tuesday but with a call week coming up, I need it submitted before Monday!

❏ Mild cleanup/set up for running group dinner tonight! (I am having Mister01 do all the cooking so it will not be too much work.)

❏ Rough draft of slides for upcoming talk (probably will tackle this as soon as I hit ‘pubish’!)

❏ TJs run with particular emphasis on convenient snacks/meals to have at work for approaching call week (I really do like their premade salads!)

Things I Want to Do:

❏ Nap (fingers crossed I can get this in before the gathering tonight!)

❏ Finish Hello Beautiful (likely because I am close and it’s the kind of book I want to pick up whenever I can)

❏ Play with my new Hobonichi haul a little bit! Totally not necessary in September but I’m dying to get a better feel for the new paper!

* Anyone have experience with kids who are um . . . reluctant to continue music lessons? We are trying to figure out the best way to navigate this (which may be just as simple as allowing said kid to stop – yet asking for ~90 min/week total of engagement doesn’t SEEN totally unreasonable either?). Two differing viewpoints: here + here.

** This is probably one of my biggest struggles in parenting – understanding when to push or try to enforce something or not. I had friends that felt I made a mistake in not ‘forcing’ the kids back to traditional sleep away camp, yet it just did not feel right in my heart to do so — literally trying to convince kids on a plane, away from our family, against their desires. On the other hand, forcing (or strongly incentivizing?) a kid to continue an activity at a fairly low time commitment doesn’t feel quite as wrong. When people say things like “well, get them to do XYZ, YOU’RE the parent” I’m always struck with umm, if that is straightforward for you, maybe we have different kinds of kids. Yet other things have been easily enforceable (screen free months, even!).

TLDR, parenting is hard.


  • Reply Jessica September 9, 2023 at 11:16 am

    It is hard to know when to force. In general I have wanted my kids to do something active and something non athletic. My 13yr old has decided he only wants to play soccer and is giving me pretty big pushback on doing other things. He does take art and choir at school so he is getting something, but I still would like him to choose one other non school activity. Plus, I feel like if I let him only play soccer, my other kids might also want to quit activities.

    • Reply Amy September 10, 2023 at 5:54 pm

      As a former private piano teacher, i appreciate when kids are not forced to keep taking lessons. There are other steps to take before quitting– would changing from classical to pop music make a difference in practice motivation? Would a different teacher help? A group lesson venue instead of individual lessons? Could you come up with an agreement with an end date? E.g., keep a daily practice streak for 3 months and if kiddo still wants to quit at the 3- month- mark then OK. Sometimes it’s the frustration of not being as good as you want to be that makes it difficult to find the motivation to practice, but of course it’s hard to get better without practicing 🙂

  • Reply Jeannemarie Hendershot September 9, 2023 at 11:24 am

    Literally going through this now. My 11 year old was assigned to concert band for middle school this fall and had hoped to stop playing. I have made him try and figure out the schedule change process but after three days of not being able to find people to sign his form he came to me and said he needs help and just wants to be in chorus. I suspect he will regret not continuing with an instrument later on but right now this seems like the right outcome for where he is. So hard!

  • Reply Gillian September 9, 2023 at 11:51 am

    We have had good success switching instruments. My 10 yo started to hate piano the minute his 7 yo brother started to play (something I foresaw, but 7yo REALLY wanted to play piano). We spoke to the director at our music school and 10 yo decided on trumpet. He loves it and practices for fun. We are lucky that my kids do music lessons through a local conservatory that offers many instruments. All 4 kids play something but they all play something different.

    • Reply Omdg September 9, 2023 at 8:58 pm

      We didn’t! Dyl was really excited about clarinet and then never practiced that either.

  • Reply Gwinne September 9, 2023 at 12:39 pm

    What is the goal of piano? And what is the resistance? Could this goal be met differently or at a different time?
    Generally I avoid fiction except for health, safety, and basic priorities and values…

  • Reply Brooke September 9, 2023 at 12:48 pm

    Our rule is if you are signed up, you need to finish, but we won’t sign up next season if the kid doesn’t want.

    We also don’t do a ton of activities. Kids are 9 and 13. Oldest dies ultimate frisbee through school, and youngest has chess club (5m walk from house) and basketball through school. We keep it simple. My daughter dropped girl scouts this year. I would have liked for her to continue, but I decided not to fight her on it.

  • Reply Amy September 9, 2023 at 12:52 pm

    I think the first thing to consider with piano is why they are doing it. Do they have talent / natural musical ability? Do they enjoy being able to play? I don’t mean “are they good at it”, but do they have an internal sense of rhythm and music, and are they drawn to it? One of my kids takes piano lessons and the other doesn’t (the third is too young). My older kid took one year of lessons but never really took to it or felt engaged / a sense of accomplishment from mastering a piece of music. My younger child, on the other hand, has always been more musical (humming and singing from an early age, for instance). She’s now taken lessons for a few years and while practicing / taking lessons sometimes does feel like a chore, it’s something she feels a sense of accomplishment from and I think, if given the opportunity to continue to learn and work, she has the potential to meaningfully engage in music long-term. I don’t think my older child finds playing music a meaningful experience, and that’s totally fine.

    Anyway, I feel like that’s a good rubric to consider when making the decision about whether to push a child in something or not. What’s your why, and where do their natural gifts lie.

    PS you 100% did the right thing in not sending your kids back to a four-week sleepaway camp. Imagine forcing your child onto a plane.

  • Reply Kelly September 9, 2023 at 1:14 pm

    This is one of my biggest struggles in parenting too, not necessarily about music lessons but just extracurricular activities in general. I can 100% see both arguments made in the articles about kids not being able to make smart decisions yet so we need to, but also the torture of forcing kids to do things they don’t want to…and to what end? I don’t think either of my kids will be famous athletes or musicians nor is that a goal I have for them. I would like them to have hobbies but when I think about my biggest hobbies reading and swimming, they weren’t really things I did as “lessons” as a child (skating, soccer, etc). My older kid in particular has tried many sports or active activities and he will be ok with it for awhile and then be done. We don’t let him quite mid season/session but I still wonder if I’m not teaching him the importance of sometimes pushing through when things are hard. Or is there enough of that in life?

  • Reply Kersti September 9, 2023 at 5:09 pm

    It seems like it depends on the kid. I was an overachiever, and I wished my parents encouraged me to quit things that I didn’t enjoy. I didn’t learn the value of doing what you like to do and quitting what you don’t until like until mid 30s. My brother on the other hand was more type B and probably should have been pushed more – he has never really learned the value of (sometimes) doing what you don’t want to do.

    • Reply Susan September 10, 2023 at 12:22 am

      My kids both took piano for about six years. I only required them to play 10 minutes a day. I also play the piano and would practice too. My husband took up the piano in his 40s and was taking lessons with them. Now that the boys are in high school, they really don’t want to continue, but I make them play only 10 minutes each weekend day. I don’t want them to completely lose their knowledge. So many people have told me that I am lucky that I still can play. My kids and I went on to learn guitar together and my older son, and I still take lessons. Both boys have taken up new instruments in the band and realized that learning music and other instruments was much easier because of knowing the piano. I’d say keep with it, but make the practice time short, so it’s not such a chore.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger September 10, 2023 at 7:15 am

        Yes 10 min per day (plus a 30 min lesson weekly) was what we were aiming for.

        • Reply Jennie September 12, 2023 at 9:35 am

          Honestly, if they dislike is so much they can’t manage ten mins a day and they’re willing to spend that time practicing another skill or helping with a chore, I would let them drop it.
          If they don’t want to do anything scheduled each day, maybe compromise at 4 x 15 min and a lesson a week. If they just want to veg out I would tell them they have the three choices outlined above and and why it’s important.
          I.e. it’s very normal to have ups and down of motivation for everything and so it’s important to develop routines to keep building our skills and work through inevitable lower motivation phases. That’s how we get good at things we enjoy or must do.

          This opinion is based only on my experience with my children (9 and 10) who love piano and practice longer than their 20 mins a day without being told most days. They look forward to their 2-3 tennis lessons most of the time.
          BUT They have tried (for varying lengths of time) and dropped: gymnastics, soccer, sewing, ballet, and modern dance since age 3. We’ve been consistent with tennis and piano for 3 ish years now. I think that’s because they genuinely choose and love them.

  • Reply Ali September 9, 2023 at 5:28 pm

    I am definitely in team don’t force kids, but often offer encouragement. If we signed up for something, we finish that commitment (and I do force that) but don’t push beyond that.

    My two older kids have tried piano. My oldest likes it and seems to have a natural inclination for it, but I still have to “encourage” practice. We use basically a sticker chart where he can check off each practice and save up to earn things he wants. My middle son liked piano but didn’t love it or seem to have a natural inclination for it, so I am encouraging him less on that one—if he wants to do it and earn checks, great—but it isn’t something I remind him of daily.

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa’s Yarns September 9, 2023 at 5:54 pm

    I did a post on kid activities last month. I feel like there is a lot of emphasis on sports but not all kids enjoy or excel at sports. Sports involvement was terrible for my self esteem. I want my kids to try things but I will ask if they are having fun. I know there is something to be said for perseverance but at what cost? I am a very active adult, probably more active than the average adult, despite not being in athletics. I had to try things until around 6th grade and then I could focus on things I had a natural ability for, like music, speech, drama, etc. I was still challenged in those activities so it’s not like I took ‘the east way out’. So my goal is to show our kids how to live a healthy life and model finding activities that we enjoy and are challenged by.

    Specific to piano, my parents required everyone to take something like 2-3 years of lessons so we would learn the basics of music and how to play piano. But after that, you could opt out if you didn’t enjoy it. So only my younger sister and I stuck with piano.

  • Reply Omdg September 9, 2023 at 6:48 pm

    Dyl is old enough she gets to pick activities she likes – and she does like some things, thankfully, so we do those. She is good at piano but never practiced and frankly it felt disrespectful to the teacher. So I let her quit. She can sight read really well, and so far, no regrets. What are you hoping to get out of this? It sounds like it’s mostly causing friction.

  • Reply Cate September 9, 2023 at 7:07 pm

    I’m a little older than you and still remember the relief I felt 35 years ago when my parents were finally frustrated enough with my lack of interest in music lessons to pull me out. 90 min/week feels like an eternity to a kid. I have gone on to live a rich full life without being able to play an instrument.

  • Reply Alyce September 9, 2023 at 9:40 pm

    I come from a very musical family – my parents were public school orchestra and band teachers, both have advanced degrees in music/music education. My mother retired from teaching and became an arts administrator with the Atlanta Symphony and was later recruited to administer a music program on the other side of the country. Growing up, all eight of us kids played at least one instrument, some played more than one. My siblings went on to attend the best music conservatories in the world. Multiple of my siblings continue to play for fun and/or professionally or have music related jobs as middle-aged adults.

    I, however, was the black sheep of the family and was never interested in music and playing an instrument. I started with the violin at 4 and, because everyone was expected to play an instrument, I moved from instrument to instrument for years in the hopes of finding one I liked (after violin, piano, cello, then clarinet). Finally, I forged my dad’s signature to drop out of middle school band, stopped practicing for my private lessons for a year and a half, and ultimately went to my dad crying and begging to stop playing an instrument.

    I have two main thoughts based on my experience. First, when kids want to play an instrument, they will play the instrument. I think the narrative that music has to be forced on kids is just not true. My siblings, who enjoyed their instruments and the music all played and practiced voluntarily at all ages. Second, I think that musicians like to believe that playing an instrument imparts some essential life skill that can only be attained by playing an instrument, and I just don’t think that’s true. There are lots of ways to build any one skill, and everyone doesn’t need to have the exact same set of skills to live successful and fulfilling lives.

    I personally think that if you have to fight your kid more often than not to get them to practice, it’s not worth it.

    And I will also say that music isn’t time limited. They can start learning an instrument at any time in their lives! The beauty of music is that they can still engage with it even if they don’t play it. (After I was finally able to quit instruments, the family joke was that I played the radio.)

    And I’m also curious if these sorts of things train people to say yes to doing then when they should say no, which we then spend a lifetime trying to unlearn.

    • Reply Grateful Kae September 10, 2023 at 8:56 am

      Love your two main thoughts, Alyce. So much good food for thought here. I grew up playing the piano and while I maybe didn’t always practice my lesson pieces as much or as thoroughly as I should have, I did PLAY a lot. Like, for fun. I had tons of books with “fun” music and I truly enjoyed sitting down and playing. I remember playing especially when I was home alone around 10-12 years old so I could sing along with the Disney songs and no one could hear me. (haha! I was good on the piano, but singing, not so much…). But if I was playing while home alone, that means definitely no one was forcing me to play. Which means, I must have actually enjoyed it and wanted to play!

      My older son has been taking piano lessons since he was 5, and he’s 15 now. He has a very natural, beautiful touch on the piano. As a lifelong pianist myself, I can hear the “touch” when he plays. BUT. I don’t think he has ever once in all these years sat down to play just for fun. I also still have to remind to practice. He will grumble a little sometimes but it’s not usually a big argument or anything, either. But if I don’t mention it, it probably won’t happen. I am also feeling confused about if I am basically just wasting our money at this point.

      As an adult I sit down and play the piano often and truly enjoy it. I am not convinced my son will ever want to do this, even years down the road. He just doesn’t seem to derive the same joy from it that I always have. He doesn’t beg to quit, really, and there are no raging fights about practice time. He just seems pretty indifferent to it all and puts forth minimal effort. It seems like he’s mostly just playing because we said each boy should do something musical. I often feel like if I never mentioned the piano to him again, he might never touch it again, either…. His younger brother did quit piano a couple year ago and switched to the school band on percussion. But since my older didn’t want to do that, either, I think he mostly just sticks with piano to sort of “check this box” for us, since at least this way we haven’t pushed him to join band/orchestra. 🙁

      Love that family joke about you playing the radio. 🙂 That’s cute! (In my son’s case, we could say… he plays the Xbox?? UGH. hahaha.)

      • Reply Omdg September 10, 2023 at 9:16 am

        Love both of these responses! I quit piano bc I hate that my mother would come and listen to me practice. When I quit, she no longer did that and I started to enjoy playing and would teach myself pieces on my own. My daughter does none of that.

    • Reply Alyce September 10, 2023 at 11:05 am

      Oh, and if I can add a third point, I also think that we mistakenly conclude that the seemingly universal connection that people have to music means that we all need to be able to create it in order to maximize our appreciation of it or the value it adds to our life. You can appreciate something deeply and abhor the process of creating it.

      Also, in reading the comments here and the number of people struggling to get their kid to play the piano, I can’t help but think that it’s kinda weird that everyone’s kids are playing the piano as though there aren’t other instruments or other arts out there. Maybe thinking broader than just piano to include more instruments and other art forms would help find activities that kids find engaging. Playing music was not for me, but I adored the theatre deeply when I was introduced to it in high school. I voluntarily put my time and energy into it in the same way that siblings put their time and energy into practicing. My parents were so happy that I found an art form I connected with and supported my theatre the same way they my siblings in their music. I think that many of the skills parents want to cultivate by encouraging music can be cultivated by pursuing any artistic endeavor.

      • Reply Elizabeth September 11, 2023 at 12:56 pm

        Your experience was similar to mine! I really hated playing an instrument. A significant part of the reason was because I hated performing in front of people (recitals would stress me out for weeks). I was glad to give it up when my parents finally relented. And even though I didn’t like performing, I found a nice home in technical theater that allowed me to build my interest in the arts and participate in a way that was more comfortable for my personality. I do not make my kids participate in anything to check an “arts” or “music” or “sports” box. I let them choose what they are interested in and trust that they’ll figure out their interests naturally. Mostly, they do sports, and that’s okay with me.

  • Reply Diane September 9, 2023 at 10:51 pm

    We just went through the music lesson debate with my 11 year old. She has been taking lessons for four years now. She likes lessons, but practicing was always so so so difficult and usually involved stomping and pouting and screaming. Last June she said she wanted to quit. What helped make the decision was talking to her piano teacher about hearing her thoughts on my daughter and on kids and piano lessons in general.
    We ended up having quite a lengthy conversation about many things specific to my daughter. She asked me a couple things to think about like “What does she want to get out of it? Be able to play simple pieces in C-major?”, “Does she have any other musical interests?”, but one thing her teacher said that stuck with me was that sometimes piano is more important to the parent. “I have students,” she said, “who don’t practice at home, but piano is very important to the parents so they are basically paying me to sit and practice piano with their kid for 30 minutes once a week. And that’s fine, if it is that important to the parents.” And I thought, “Is piano that important to me that I would pay someone to sit next to them for a 30 minute once a week practice session?” And I think the answer for me actually is, yes it is that important. At least for another year or so. I might feel differently if she had taken up an instrument in school, but for now, I do see moments – hard won moments to be sure – where she gets a lot of joy out of piano so I’m glad I didn’t let her quit. What I did do was let her take the summer off and luckily, after taking the summer off, she was actually okay with starting lessons again. Practicing is still very difficult. Because it is important to me, I do try to be very involved in my kids’ piano – I withhold screentime unless they practice, I sit with them and help them if they ask me, I check out music from the library for them (EZ piano Taylor Swift!), and I also play piano for them and we have singalongs. I think in my head if I show them how fun being able to make music is, they will also want to keep going. Of course every kid and context is different – maybe I won’t be so pushy with my other kids if/when they want to quit? I think persisting with my 11 year old was a good choice for now, but I imagine in a year or two the conversation might be very different.

  • Reply Alison September 9, 2023 at 11:31 pm

    I am in the throes of the piano forcing/allowing to quit equation with my 10yo daughter right now. She has been asking to quit for the last 9 months because she doesn’t want to practice, and it’s gotten more challenging as she’s progressed and is expected to actually know the notes, etc. AKA it’s not as easy to wing it without putting in the time each week! The thing that kills me is that she is pretty naturally talented and before she started formal lessons would play just for fun all the time. I let her take the summer off and told her she could just play for fun and she never once touched the piano. So that probably says it all right there. As one who played piano as a kid and never was great (but can still bust out a tune and learn a piece for fun) I do want her to make the most of her ability and not regret quitting. I think she has more potential than me and I took lessons for 8 years. But I’m leaning toward giving her a break for the next two years and starting a new instrument in 6th grade band or orchestra. I was recently talking to a professional cellist who said she is very grateful her parents let her quit piano as it opened the door to find an instrument she loved. Definitely interested in other takes on this. It’s a tough call, for sure!

  • Reply coco September 9, 2023 at 11:53 pm

    parenting is hard! parenting more than one kids is harder and one playbook might not work.
    with extracurricular activities, I hope to do a combination of sports, academic, language, and hobby. I realized that having the right teacher makes a huge difference. It used to be the case that both girls like chinese the least but now with a new teacher, in person class, they both like it. They still don’t like doing homework but they enjoy the class a lot so they do it. Also, knowing the purpose of the activity is important. For academic and language classes, they know these help them with school and work later on. For sport and music, I don’t expect them to be professional but through sport and music, to build endurance and mental toughness, need to face life challenges, and feel good about themselves when they overcome the challenges. So far, the girls are okay with the chosen activities. When they resist, I’ll revisit again the why and their interests/weaknesses.

  • Reply Coree September 10, 2023 at 3:18 am

    T is 6 and we are just letting him trying things out casually and seeing what he likes.

    We dropped judo because it was a logistical faff, but he got a spot in Beavers (scouts) and seems super keen, and he has a ukulele group lesson, and swim. Sports are less intense here though (except soccer), you can join things for a term or two through the city council programmes.

    I am a dilettante and never learned an instrument as a child, or did any structured sports/activities, and am a perfectly functional adult 🙂

  • Reply Sam September 10, 2023 at 6:37 am

    Wow! That set off quite the cascade of opinions. Apparently this question of kid activities is really a hot topic. I struggle with this too, butI think the approach really depends on the kid. For at least one of my kids the chips you can cash in for screen time would be met with total scorn (it is pretty manipulative). For some kids this might work. I generally tend to say let it go. It is wonderful if you are in a position, financially and timewise to offer music, sports, etc. to kids, and I think it is ok to push kids a little bit out of their comfort zones (who knows what you might discover if you are never pushed a little bit), but if it is mainly a source of unhappiness, then it is probably better to leave it.
    Due to limited finances music lessons were never on the table for us as kids (nor was there any pressure to play something!). My mother did have an old piano, and starting in 9th-10th grade I taught myself to play a bit. I never became great at it, but I can still play and have recently started working my way through an intermediate book of piano pieces. My brother, in his early thirties, has just started taking cello lessons. He said that he loved the Elgar cello suits that my father used to play (on the record player) when he was younger. You never know what seeds you might be able to plant by way of positive experiences with music (or whatever else). Or what you might also ruin!

  • Reply Alex September 10, 2023 at 6:09 pm

    I know it depends on the kid and the activity, but I think (and it seems like you think) that music is important enough to push a little. Can you shorten practice to 5 minutes a day? That’s what my kids do (a little older than G). They don’t love it, but the pieces are so short at this age that five minutes seems like enough to learn their pieces for the week. Violin is also an option for a lot of kids in our area, because we have an accessible kids orchestra in our city, but the only options until age 8 are violin/viola.

    We do “just five minutes” for a lot of things so as to not induce as much resistance. Five minutes every day gets you pretty far with little kids!

    • Reply Irene September 10, 2023 at 9:16 pm

      Wow so interesting. I have generally allowed my kids to pick their activities because we really wanted some exercise/movement and they both have activities they love. Not sports for my daughter aside from some swimming but anything dance, gymnastics or ice skating she loves. So that’s fine, it’s exercise and she enjoys it. We did recently have a few discussions now that she is doing more advanced moves at gymnastics I felt she needed to go to a more serious studio with better instruction and more equipment. She did not want to do that, but ultimately wanted to continue advancing and came around. To be honest she doesn’t seem to enjoy the new gym as much, although she’s learning a ton. I’m not sure I made the right decision- she likely would have been fine/safe at the original facility and it was nice to see her really enjoy it. I have asked her to give it a real chance. Anyway I think the advice to think about what your goals are is good.

      FWIW I played an instrument fairly seriously for about 5 years before quitting because I just had too many other things in high school. I have essentially not played sense. It makes me sad when I think about it but it really doesn’t affect my life. As a result I am not going to push an instrument on my kids (if they want to play it’s fine). Just my point of view.

  • Reply Jenny September 11, 2023 at 10:46 am

    Wow, you got some great comments here about the piano lessons! One that I particularly liked was about possibly switching instruments? Or even possibly taking a break until they- not sure which kid it is- could maybe start playing an instrument of their choice in the school band? I agree it’s a tough decision. I’ll be interested to hear what you decide.
    Just reading about this weekend was exhausting- I spent a large part of my weekend on the couch watching football.

  • Reply Stephanie September 12, 2023 at 12:57 pm

    We just switched my 10 year old to a new piano teacher and she wants to practice more now.

    My kids don’t get screen time until after they practice.

    I don’t set a timer for practice, just tell them to play their songs 3 times each, so practice is somewhere between 5 minutes and a half hour, depending on the kid and the week.

    Good luck figuring out what to do.

  • Reply ARC October 7, 2023 at 8:33 pm

    Late, but love this topic – it’s so universal 🙂 I wanted both my girls to *try* music so the older one did some group piano lessons (meh), violin (better but still not meh) and percussion at school (meh). We finally let her choose not to do any music and it turns out she absolutely LOVES drawing and asked us for voice lessons. The younger one really fell in love with violin at school but it also frustrates her. She sometimes wants to quit but she’s actually quite good and I will hear her playing for fun. She loves playing for people, too, so I think she truly does like it and is frustrated by being a beginner. For this kid in particular, I need her to work through that pain of getting good at something slowly, so I’m requiring she stick with it for this academic year. If she really wants to quit after that, ok. But we actually haven’t heard talk of quitting in a month or so, which makes me think she might be really getting into it. She’s also in a performance choir and she loves to sing but dislikes how strict the choir conductors are (they have to be with 60 kids in the elementary section!). I think as she moves up she’ll realize it’s more fun so like a sports team, we’re requiring her to continue at least through this season.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger October 8, 2023 at 8:28 am

      I think choir would be wonderful for A and C but our school doesn’t have one!

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