Flora and the Violin: A Love/Hate Relationship

Last year, Flora asked if she could start violin lessons.

Dan and I talked, and decided first grade was too young for her. We wanted to get her settled into a new school routine, see what homework would be like and so on. If she was still interested, there was no reason she couldn’t start in second grade.

It was the right decision.

Dan was ecstatic that she was interested in violin. If there is a true musical aficionado in my house, it’s Dan, not me. He has very specific and classic tastes (not being snarky here, he really does). And he loves classic music.

I had misgivings about Flora starting an instrument, but the school the girls attend makes it very easy. Classes are during the school day, twice a week; violin rental is a breeze because you just send the teacher a check and he does the actual legwork; and most everything else comes home from the school as well.

The only obstacle — and I know you can see it coming because we’ve talked about Flora’s attention issues before — is practice.

It’s very simple: Flora needs to come home from school and practice violin for 15 minutes.

That’s it. That’s the rule. I’ve been giving her a pass on Fridays and weekends, but I’m going to change that.

She tries to negotiate with me about it. Can she eat dinner first? No. It’s 15 minutes. Can she play with Kate or Michael? No. Go practice. It’s 15 minutes. If she goes to the bathroom in the middle of it, I stop the timer. She has to play her violin for 15 minutes.

Flora and I have had several go-rounds about this topic. And ultimately here are the two issues for me:

1. It’s 15 minutes. She has to be responsible enough to do it when I tell her to do it. I can’t be up in her business about it — I’ve got dinner to get on the table and two other children to manage when we get home. I tell her to hang up her coat and go practice her violin (usually in her room). I will probably continue to give her a pass on Friday (I’m such a softie), but I’ve told her from here on out she has to practice one day on a weekend.

2. (This is the real red flag for me.) When we have had these go-rounds — and we just had one on Monday — I have said to her: You either practice, or you’re quitting violin. It makes no difference to me (although quitting would save me a semi-weekly argument, and a bit of cash). If she is going to stop playing, she has to tell her father and tell the violin teacher.

Flora is afraid to tell her father (and/or the violin teacher; I’m sure the violin teacher at the school has seen his share of students who’ve quit). She doesn’t want to disappoint him (or them).

I am uncomfortable with this. Flora is a born people pleaser, which is fine to an extent. (Oh, and I’m the exception. It’s not that Flora doesn’t want to please me, she just wants to do it in the easiest, quickest way possible, which is why she tries to negotiate with me so often.) But now her desire to please her father is conflicting with her desire to be committed to violin.

I don’t know how to help her resolve this conflict. I don’t even know that I should. She has “quit” about three times already — until she talks to Dan. Then she recommits. Then about two weeks (or two days, or 10 days, or however long it takes Flora to decide that 15 minutes is JUST TOO LONG!), Flora and I argue about practice again.

I flipping hate it.

I don’t know if anyone has suggestions or wants to give me encouragement or whatnot. This is kind of one of those posts that I just had to write because it’s a parenting issue driving me bonkers. Please, don’t suggest a chore chart or reward system. I have so many gd chore charts and reward systems started in my house. I never keep up with any of them. Flora’s not the only one with commitment issues.

And yes, Dan and I have talked about this too. I don’t know that we are on the same page here. For all I know, he is promising to buy her a pony (hyperbole alert) if she sticks with the violin. He knows my position.