Sitting in the warm June light of the music teacher’s house, watching my almost seven year old daughter perform her music recital, I feel a tingling wash coming over me.
Yes, I’m prone to cry at pretty much anything my daughter does – dance shows, school events, the image of her in front of a waterfall at Yosemite. Okay, I’ll admit I sometimes tear up when I see her little shoes lined up by the door. Still, sitting there as the small group plays their recorders, dances, sings, I realise the wash is that crisp, pure shiver of immediate joy.
We live in a product-based world. In my fourteen years as a high school teacher and author, I’m always struck by how many times I hear parents say things like, “He really likes biology – maybe he’ll cure cancer!” Yeah, no pressure there. Or things like, “He loves his guitar – uh oh, I hope he gets a day job!” as if loving a guitar needs to culminate in a paying gig. Very rarely do I hear parents simply say, “playing music makes him really happy” without the need to explain the potential payoff. As a culture, and I think as parents, we are programmed to be constantly managing our futures, their futures. We are programmed to think that the thing we love should have an employment opportunity at the end of it, some sort of outcome. What about just the sheer joy of it? In that moment. Right now.
Not that joy can’t produce an outcome. My daughter’s teacher, Anna Gold, has worked in children’s music education for 40 years. She creates a warm space for them to sing, dance, play, learn the anatomy of different instruments – “wow, that upright bass can play the same tune as my recorder!” they exclaim. And she can tell me about the stats – music education for children can develop math skills, children’s self-esteem, language skills, relieve stress, encourage creativity – all fantastic outcomes. The research is there, sure. Mostly, though, she says, “it’s fun.”
Watching them during their recital – laughing, dancing, singing songs – I’m struck with the rhythm that joy creates, the energy of feeling entirely wrapped in a moment, with no thought to what this means for the future. For those of us future-minded parents, perhaps giving our children the gift of enjoying the rhythm of right now is the best thing we can do for their future. More likely, our children are teaching this to us.