The battle over piano lessons

The 12-year-old boy wanted to quit piano; his parents thought that was a mistake.

M y 12-year-old son hit a milestone last summer. It wasn't a cute one like his first tooth or first stick of deodorant.

"Mom, I'm quitting piano," he said emphatically.

Immediately disobeying the laws of wise parenting, I snapped right back. "You can't."

"Why?" he asked in his best belligerent tone.

"Because I said so."

And the battle ensued.

Many of you know of what battle I speak. It's the one where all of a sudden instruments that once filled the home with glorious music are abandoned in favor of sports, dating, and all things cool. Even if you don't have kids, you were probably a kid who quit music lessons. Didn't we all? OK, not all of us. Or else we'd be a world without the Milwaukee Symphony or Kenny G.

Parents are divided over whether to force their children to take music lessons. My son rattled off a list of those friends who were allowed to quit. The old response, "Well, they will regret it one day" doesn't fly.

Much to our son's dismay, my husband and I decide to stand firm. We hoped this phase would pass much like Power Rangers and Pokémon did.

When our son started piano lessons in second grade, he took to music eagerly, displaying interest and talent. Over the next few years he willingly entered competitions recommended by his teacher.

But that was then. With puberty approaching, my son's enthusiasm for tickling the ivories waned. He looked forward to music lessons as much as he looked forward to his pooper-scooper chores.

While parents allow their children to win battles now and then, this was one my husband and I were not willing to concede. We decided, however, to give him an option of taking up another instrument. We suggested guitar, since he had received one from his aunt and uncle as a gift.

He was open to meeting a couple of instructors. I was excited. Perhaps my boy would be the next Stevie Ray Vaughn. That dream evaporated.

"My hands are too small," he complained. No matter that the student who came after us was a 5-year-old girl.

As it turned out, he wasn't willing to become a rank beginner again.

So we were back at Square 1. As much as I disliked the idea, I suggested we look at changing teachers.

Finding a piano teacher with an opening can be tricky once the school year is in session. I worried that our search would be fruitless and that weeks of whining and combat lay ahead as he was forced to return to his current teacher.

We discussed what to look for in a new instructor. He said he wanted a teacher who was "nice."

I interpreted that to mean "no stress."

As strange as it sounds, my new goal was to find someone who wouldn't push our son too hard. He was at risk of hating piano.

As much as I feared he would lose momentum and slip behind, my husband and I both agreed that baby steps at this point would be just fine.

Finally, we found a male teacher with a gentle voice, a great sense of humor, and a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He says that competitions are not his thing; playing music is.

After my son's first lesson with his new teacher, I took a deep breath and braced myself for the usual negative barrage.

"Mom, he makes me like piano again," my son announced as we headed to the car.

I was speechless. My heart soared.

While it's probably true that the battle with piano lessons isn't over, it's safe to say there has been a truce.

Cheery piano music – missed notes and all – filled the house during the long winter evenings.

The playing wasn't as long as I would have liked or as frequent as it used to be. But it's sweet, still the same.

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