Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Musings on Adolescence

What a difference a year makes. Last year I would have been pulling my hair out over this; this year it’s just rolling off me.

Erin has a violin recital coming up in 6 days. In the past 10 days she’s practiced three times, slap-dash at that. Last week she did a similar sort of thing with piano ... she practiced twice between one lesson and the next and didn’t even touch on about half of her assignments. I didn't remind, I didn't nag, I didn't voice my frustration and anger. I just let it be. I confess that yesterday I had to actively resist the temptation of mentioning my concerns as we shared an hour-long drive to Nelson for piano lessons, but I managed without too much difficulty.

As we unpacked at piano lesson I said “Erin, did you want to talk to Anne about your practising?” Stony blank look resulted. “Did you have some trouble practising this week?” asked Anne. Ongoing blank look. “Let’s just say it wasn’t a terribly productive week,” I said casually, and left it at that.

From the next room I could hear the progress of the lesson. I could hear requests for things that hadn’t been practiced, fumblings about to nail the parallel sixths in complex keys that hadn’t been tried even once at home, the fact that her memorization of the Bach ran out after about 4 bars, the empty silence when she was asked about the quick-study that was in a book she hadn’t even brought, having forgotten it was assigned, the admission that she hadn’t tried the transposition exercises in her sight-reading assignments. I heard the gentle but firm re-iteration of her teacher’s expectations. At the end I saw that Erin had been asked to initial her practising assignments for the upcoming week to show that she agreed they were reasonable expectations that she agreed to. She and her teacher had worked together for an hour in an productive and co-operative fashion and ended in a cheerful frame of mind.

‘Nuff said.

I am managing to transfer some of the responsibility for things over to my newly-11-year-old and not grab it back in annoyance when she creates negative consequences by not handling it well. She needs to learn that the consequences are hers, and that she can deal with them and move on, learning from them in the process.

For years I’ve joked that my intention was to skip adolescence entirely in our family by keeping my kids children for as long as possible, and then giving them adult-type responsibilities and freedoms pro-actively and early, hastening their transition from childhood to adulthood. But secretly I worried that when it came time to give responsibility, trust and freedom to my kids that I would balk and resist their transition into more adult creatures.

So far, as Erin enters the peri-adolescent years, I think I’m doing okay, though. She’s far more independent with her music than most of her agemates, and than most Suzuki students of 11. I’ve discovered she’s reading adult novels, some of which contain fairly graphic sexual scenes, and I feel okay about that – I know we’ve talked about the moral and ethical context and implications of sexual relationships, that she has all the scientific knowledge she needs about sex, that she knows where to find more answers if she wants to explore for more information. I know that I am not dreading the awakening of her interest in the opposite sex. I know that I am comfortable trusting her to care for herself and her siblings, that my only qualms in leaving them home alone are concerning the reaction of a society that doesn’t think it’s safe for children to walk to school.

So perhaps there’s still hope that we will manage to compress adolescence into a transition rather than enduring a decade-long state of not-quite-adulthood.

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