Editor’s note: This is the second of two columns on alternate paradigms for family. Read the first post: Is a family like a company or like a symphony?
When I (Linda) was at Utah State University as a string education major, the hardest university credit I ever had to earn was the measly one hour of credit I earned each semester for spending an hour and half every day rehearsing with the orchestra. We went over and over difficult passages until we got it right, one section of music at a time and one section of instruments at a time.
Music majors also spend endless time each semester learning how to play most of the individual instruments in the orchestra, which requires solitary time in practice rooms outside of class time. We learn that each instrument has an entirely different sound and that learning to play the flute, oboe, trumpet, cello and drums requires entirely different skill sets. For example, I learned that playing in the percussion section mostly involves patiently counting for long periods of time until it is your turn to “speak.” We also were required to take classes in conducting.
I now realize it was all perfect practice for motherhood: countless hours of work for little “pay,” orchestrating kids who are as different from one another as a violin is from a bassoon, and lots of conducting.
As we mentioned in our column last week, when we got married and our family started filling up with “employees” and “orchestra members,” and without really recognizing it, Richard and I went about “conducting” our family based on what we knew. With his business background, his idea of success with the family was all about holding meetings, laying out expectations, conducting interviews and occasionally wishing he could fire one of the kids.
My idea of success with our family was making beautiful music together, even when it meant a lot of dissonance and hours and hours of practice to get to the desired result. Patiently getting kids out the door for school in the morning with their practicing done, their homework in hand and their coats and their shoes on without throwing down the baton and stomping off because no one was listening to my instructions was an enormous challenge.
But my musical training did stand me in good stead with our family — partly as they learned to play musical instruments themselves but mostly because there were days when we did make beautiful music together. I soon learned that those were the moments to tuck into a special place in my memory bank along with the horrible disaster days when we were perpetually practicing the difficult parts, which was most of the time.
Here are a few things I learned about our family “orchestra” as the years passed by:
Someone is always out of tune!
Each child is a different instrument. Each makes a very different sound that adds to the beauty of the whole. Celebrate the difference.
Every crisis is like a crescendo that brings out the deep and moving beauty of life so we can go on to quieter times.
When a soloist appears, everyone should rally around and applaud rather than worrying about why they aren’t the soloist.
Sometimes we just need to listen for “bars and bars and bars” in order to know just the right moment to “come in.”
Making beautiful music together requires countless hours of practice, fixing rough patches and going over the hard parts again and again to make things better.
Dissonance is good. It helps you think creatively and makes the resolution such a blessed relief.
Somebody’s always going to make a mistake. Get over it!
Even though producing a family orchestra requires more than anyone knows (except those who have done it), there are “paydays” that are more valuable than the millions of hours we have spent working on it. And even though the orchestrating never ends as our children move out of our homes and on to orchestrating their own lives, it’s worth all the effort. Most days.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefront."