Menifee Mom: You Have to Let Them Toot Their Own Horn

By Karen Thomas

My third child is finally old enough to be in elementary school band this year. My oldest played the flute, which was mine from my school days. While it can be a bit piercing, having played the flute myself, it didn't bother me. The next one played the clarinet. I quickly fell in love with the sound of that instrument -- so soothing!

Unfortunately, since last year, my third child has been determined to play the trumpet. Of all the band instruments, this is the one I really hoped we'd escape. Yes, the trumpet can produce some great jazz music and is an integral part of the band. But the thought of trumpet practice taking place in MY house made me cringe!

I did all I could to avoid this instrument choice. I had her try playing the flute and clarinet we already have. The flute proved impossible for her, but it turned out she was quite good on the clarinet. She quickly began playing several notes and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Surely, I think, she'll pick this one. After playing a few rounds of "Hot Cross Buns" and "Mary Had A Little Lamb" she put it down and said, "I want to try the trumpet."

I groaned. "But you sound so good on this one... It was a lot easier than the flute... Why not just play the clarinet? Your sister can help you learn to play it... I already know where to get a good used one... They are a lot cheaper than a trumpet... Besides, it has such a pretty sound!"

I'm really trying to win her over and do all I can to convince her that the clarinet is THE instrument for her.

"But I've always wanted to play the trumpet. Please, can I just TRY it?"

I see that longing in her face, that pleading look, and those bright blue eyes looking up at me. I have no choice.

Thankfully, I find a friend with a trumpet we can borrow long enough for her to try it out. The kids aren't around when I bring it home, so I try it out first. It is NOT easy. In fact, it is hard.

At this point, I'm feeling really glad I didn't put my foot down and make her play the clarinet. She'd never forget it and it would be the thing she'd hang over my head for the rest of her life. I can hear it now: "You wouldn't even let me try the trumpet," or, " You FORCED me to play the clarinet. When I'm a mom, my kids get to pick their own instrument."

This is so much better. This way, it will be HER decision and she can't hold it against me. I'm feeling good.

Soon the kids arrive home. I'm anxious to get this whole thing over with. My daughter immediately goes to the trumpet, the excitement bursting from her like fireworks. She picks it up and instantly blows her first perfect note. She has the biggest smile on her face. She puts it back to her lips and blows a few more notes. She is so proud of herself, I can't help but share a little of her excitement. Her mind is made up and I give in.

Since then, we have had some interesting practice sessions. We laid some ground rules early on -- the most important being that she had to practice in her room with the door closed. I know that doesn't sound very supportive, but for the sanity of the other five people in our home, it was a necessity!

It's a good thing too, because in the beginning, the sounds I heard coming from that bedroom sounded more like a goose in distress than music! I mean, really, did something just get run over by a truck? It was not pretty.

Over time, though, she has shown great improvement. Her tone is getting clearer and she can already play a scale. For a beginning trumpet player, that's a great accomplishment.

She's found that it isn't as easy as she thought it would be, but I've also found that she's a lot better than I thought she would be. So, I guess I can say that this time anyway, I was wrong and she was right.

Karen Thomas is a stay at home mom of four daughters, has been on the PTA board at her kids' school for four years, and is a volunteer at her church, in addition to her activities as a volunteer soccer referee, a piano teacher, and a runner. Her column will appear here every Thursday. Comments are welcome.


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