Happily Even After
Five-Year-Olds and Drums
by Stacey Noem
Simon recently turned five. He had been asking for a drum set. Yup, a drum set. The whole thing: snare drum, tom, bass drum, stand up cymbal thing. He knew exactly what he wanted and had been asking for it since Christmas. Which is actually very good strategic timing on his part, because even if we think it is a crazy request we will never accommodate for Christmas, if he keeps mentioning it and we keep mulling it over, the likelihood of getting drums for his birthday steadily increases.
As parents, I think we generally desire to give our children what they want as long as it is safe, economically feasible, and not detrimental to their growth and well-being. (Well, drums might be detrimental to OUR well-being.) At least that is the kind of idea that keeps floating in and out of my mind: movie scenes like Love Actually with the little boy who wants to be in a band to catch the eye of his young love interest and practices day and night.
It is really hard to figure out what is “nurturing a child’s interests and gifts” and what is “deluding myself into thinking he is going to be a star ____________.” Those are two ends of a spectrum for sure, but it is a fairly challenging line to balance as a parent. I mean on the one hand, I want to give my child every opportunity, but on the other hand, I don’t want to push something on my child in which he has only marginal interest. I certainly don’t want to delude myself into investing money in something of this magnitude that is going to be forgotten like a trendy toy.
This is where the drums are interesting in Simon’s case. For Simon, I see all things musical as a sort of on-going discernment. And I understand discernment to have two parts: my discernment of a call and the community’s confirmation of that call. A little story:
When Simon was less than two years old, we had a Mardi Gras party that included some folks coming over to play old time music (guitar, fiddle, banjo). We encouraged Oscar to grab his violin and sit in a bit. The musicians were good friends of ours who liked to include Oscar by giving him simple notes to play along.
Behind that scene I heard some guest making a polite comment, “Oh, look at Oscar.” To which another responded, “Sure, but Simon might be the musician.” I turned and saw that little Simon had in fact found our children’s guitar and was a little apart from the musicians’ circle trying to sit like them, hold the guitar like them and play along. It was at that point that I tried to pay a little extra attention to where Simon’s interests lay musically. And sure enough, when it comes to music, he is the one that seeks out instruments to play, uses free time to turn household objects into instruments and just generally pays more attention to things musical. (With the exception of dancing. He just isn’t that big a fan.)
So, drums for Simon’s fifth birthday?
Maybe invoking a “theology of discernment” is little more than deluding myself into thinking that he will be a star __________. But it does acknowledge he feels a passion now. And, we are supporting him in the things he cares about most. Perhaps as long as I can say with certainty that this has nothing to do with what I want for him and everything to do with what he wants for himself that serves as a good litmus test.
So, I think we are going to give the drums a shot. I can’t help wondering how eager our neighbors will be to hear our theology of discernment.
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