The Common Thread Between a Doll Outfit And Violin Lessons

It was a challenge we couldn't turn down: Could grandparents care for two grade-school girls for one week while the parents were in London? Of course! We raised three of our own children - what could possibly go wrong?

We arrived on Saturday afternoon and were met with packed suitcases and seven pages of computer print-outs - one for each day. The weekend was a breeze. So far, so good. No tears, no incidents requiring discipline. I always knew my daughter would make a wonderful mother. This was the absolute proof!

I was abruptly awakened before dawn by a call from the school. A snow day. So much for Monday's schedule. We played in the snow and had fun. But the schedule did list something that should be done by the nine-year-old: practice the violin. She pleaded for procrastination. I didn't make an issue of it. The lesson wasn't until Thursday.

After getting everyone off to school Tuesday, Grandpa and I sat and read the paper enjoying the empty nest for a change.

I'd promised to make a dress for Kirsten, my nine-year-old's favorite American Girl doll. But as I laid it out and cut the material, I realized this was not going to be easy. What had I gotten myself into?

The buses arrived home much earlier than I expected. After snacks and homework, it was time for violin practice. My granddaughter protested that she "didn't know how to do her assignment" and violin was becoming "too hard."

But our balky violinist brightened when she saw the pattern pieces of the dress. And I saw an opening.

My resistance to making the dress was similar to hers. We had a common problem. "This dress is not at all easy to make," I told her. "I'm not sure how to progress."

"Maybe if you started, Grandma," she encouraged me, "you would be able to see how to do it."

"No," I said, "it's too hard - like your violin assignment."

My intentions were good when I bought the pattern, I explained, as hers were when her parents rented the violin and she began lessons.

"It would take lots of concentration and uninterrupted time to get a good start on Kirsten's dress." Pause. "Do you think I should go into the sewing room and get started?"

A deal was made. I would start my sewing assignment if she would spend some time alone in her room and get a good start on her violin assignment.

An hour later, a joyous violinist knocked at my sewing room door to see how far I had come and to play what she could "never" learn. It sounded wonderful (as every good grandma would say) and I had figured out how I was going to get the dress done.

On Wednesday, we both worked on our assignments. Thursday was her violin lesson at school and she gladly took her instrument as she left for the bus.

Many things gave me a sense of accomplishment that week: shopping for food, cooking dinners they enjoyed, and finding our way to the library. But nothing matched the satisfaction I felt when the parents arrived home and our budding violinist ran for her instrument to play a welcome home song she had learned in their absence.

Oh, yes, Kirsten's new dress looks smashing!

Parents: To submit a first-person essay on your own parenting solutions, send an e-mail to home@csps.com, or write to Parenting, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115.

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