Friday’s Free Refill: Step Back

We want our kids to do things that maybe we did or we didn’t do when they were our age, but it’s not about us.

My kids were never going to eat at McDonalds. They absolutely were never going to eat in the car. And the third “rule” I created when I discovered they both had a love and talent for music was that they were both going to play a musical instrument through their senior year of high school.

Well, first road trip they not only discovered how good a McDonald’s french fry can be, they also learned the happiness a parent can enjoy when the children are eating peacefully in the back seat. Now as teenagers, thank you Goddess-of-fast-food, McDonald’s is not a place they choose to frequent and the couple of McDonald stops didn’t ruin them. However, athletes who need to be fueled, our mini-van is full of seeds on the floor, apple cores in the litter bag, and granola bar wrappers in the cup holders. I quickly understood the power of necessity back when they were in car seats and I understand it even more now as I eat my handful of grapes and raw almonds in between carpool drop offs.

When our daughter, Margaret, proved to be quite the little piano player in second grade, we signed her up for weekly lessons. Elementary band brought out her interest in the flute and the next year, the drums. When those two interests became passing fancies, I was grateful she still had her weekly piano lessons. Aware of my play-an-instrument through high school “rule” she kept at piano even when she was losing interest. Until, one day we had a heart to heart and it was clear I was pushing something she didn’t want. Was I living vicariously through her? As a kid myself who didn’t take piano lessons with much commitment, I so wanted her to continue. She was good. She had a natural talent. I quickly realized, it was bringing me joy, not her. I decided much like the no-french-fries-in-the-back-seat that the “rule” wasn’t working. She stopped lessons somewhere in the sixth grade.

Fast forward four years and guess who has been playing the piano since spring? Yep, Margaret. One weekend morning I heard her playing “Heart and Soul” and I did everything I could to hide my enthusiasm. After a few weeks of that familiar, da, da, daaaa, dadada, da, da-daaaa and the C scale, piano books started to appear on the piano. For three more weeks it was Christmas music all of June. Then Margaret revived sheet music from deep in the piano bench and it was Louis Armstrong and Adele instead of Hark the Herald. She now knows of my enthusiasm. Do you think making up dance routines in the living room  while she plays was too big of a clue?

I backed off for four years, gave up hope to be honest, and let her discover her own joy, on her own time. Of course we have strong ideas of what we want our kids to do and how we want them to behave and yes, rules have a place, boundaries are necessary. But sometimes our rules are for the wrong reasons or just don’t work. Margaret has always been an independent soul, dancing to her own drum, the pressure I put on her to play piano only served for so long. Maybe it gave her a foundation, but maybe she gave herself her own foundation.

Do some of your rules need some backing off, some allowing of discovery on your kids’ own time?

Hello! I’m Jenny Gwinn McGlothern, Certified Transformational Master Coach for your Life and Spirit. I have been leading retreats for women and coaching them since 2009. One of my favorite ways to fill my own cup is by writing. May my weekly blog give you a sip to reflect, a nugget to chew, a thought to refill. If it is an accountability partner you seek, I offer life and spiritual coaching for women, men, teenagers, and couples, in person in Seattle and by phone.  2017 Mini-retreats in West Seattle 9:30 – 2 pm. Next one, September 15 (1 seat left). Limited availability, register early. or 206 255 0463.