“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” Proverbs 22:6 KJV.
Emphasizing the “he” is so difficult. So very difficult.
We are a musical family. My late husband was a professional musician — player, conductor, and teacher. I’m an amateur musician. We met on tour with an orchestra where we were both filling in as substitute players. Really, music was the only way our worlds could possibly have collided. He was raised Catholic and had just graduated from a public university in Massachusetts. I was an Adventist girl, educated in Adventist schools and colleges, and was then working for an Adventist university in California. And then, we both went on tour with the same orchestra.
Married three years later, our home was full of music. By the time our child came along, we were both involved in separate community orchestras, my husband was teaching music and conducting, he played the piano for Cradle Roll and Kindergarten at church, and we both played with the church ensemble.
Classical music filled our house all the time. I knew exactly what music to put on to calm our child when he was upset, and I knew what his favorites were. This was a kid who never sang London Bridge is Falling Down or Ring Around the Rosy. Oh, no. This was the kid who hummed the Planets by Holst, and made up his own little-boy lyrics to melodies from Carmina Burana.
We absolutely knew this boy was going to be an awesome musician! He did a couple years of Suzuki at ages five and six, but tired of violin. No problem. Maybe he would play percussion like his dad, or clarinet like his mom. Or, maybe he would dabble in the many musical instruments in our home, and pick something else entirely. I had visions of something unique that would ensure his place in a future orchestra — bassoon!
And then…our world changed when he was seven. His dad died. I eventually remarried and we moved across the country. BUT, he still lives in a musical home — not strictly classical, but still surrounded by the love of music. His stepdad sings all the time. I joined an orchestra, and even picked up a new instrument. The local homeschool group has a choir.
And, my child finally developed an interest in…art — and, more startlingly, BMX biking.
What!?!?! I mean, I’m completely appreciative of art and its, well, artistic side, BUT WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO PLAY?!? Nothing? No violin? No clarinet? No marimba? NO BASSOON? Wait a minute. You might like an electronic keyboard to explore synthesized music? I feel a little ill.
I struggled with this for quite awhile. Music isn’t just “part of a rounded education” to me. It was an identity for our family, both past and present. What was my child thinking to forsake the family identity?!?
Eventually I came to a new understanding of Proverbs 22:6. “Train up a child in the way HE should go…” was a reminder to drop my preconceived expectations and follow the path best suited to my son. Honestly, that was pretty difficult. I really thought he’d embrace the path of our family, that we’d share dorky music humor together, that we might even play duets one day.
Instead, he’s casually pursued an interest in art. He’s painted with oils and watercolors, created charcoal and chalk drawings, sculpted from clay, and more. Personally, I’d prefer “casually” not be in the previous sentence. If he’d devoted his life to art and creating beautiful things — instead of beautiful music — I could understand better. However, though he has aptitude and interest, he’s more of a dabbler.
So, what gets every free moment? What gets repeated research on YouTube and the internet? What gets hours and hours and hours of painstaking practice, going over and over and over the same technique? It’s BMX biking. Yes, I’m dumbfounded. Not music. Not medicine or engineering. Not even art.
You know what, though? He’s pretty good. Even as I boggle at a skill set I never desired, I recognize his proficiency.
I used to pray that he would be blessed with his dad’s dogged stick-to-itivness. I’m more of a three strikes person: If I don’t catch on immediately, or at least in two or three tries, I move on. Not his dad, though. That man would practice marimba licks for hours, getting ready for orchestra, or often just perfecting music for his own growth. I prayed our child would be like that. Guess what. He is.
Watching my nearly-14 son progress in his chosen activity has grown my respect for this young man so very much. I’m awed at the time he devotes, the perfection he demands from each move. A couple months ago it dawned on me that I don’t have to worry about what he’s going to be when he grows up. Once this kid decides what he wants to pursue, he will do whatever it takes to get there — and to perform at an excellent level.I sure wish I’d come to that realization back when I was pushing him to again try violin, something for which he was not particularly suited and not remotely driven. What are your hopes for your children? We all give lip service to “I just want him to do what makes him happy” or “Whatever the Lord leads her to will be fine,” but do we actually believe it? Are we pushing our kids to meet our personal expectations, or have we given them up to God and allowed them to take responsibility for their own choices?
It can be surprising when your child decides to forsake the family business for a degree in ancient history. Or, maybe it’s alarming that you have a multigenerational family of higher education, but your firstborn wants to go to cosmetology school. Maybe it’s as simple as your kid being the only one in the family not to play an instrument, or…maybe it’s as scary as your teenager not being content to flow with your family’s belief system, and instead striking out on their own quest for meaning.
For me it all comes back to trust, trust in my child and trust in God. Daily I remind myself to trust that God will direct his path, to pray that my son will accept His guidance, and to have the courage to step back and let it happen. And in the meantime, before this little bird has left the nest? I’ll keep asking for God to help me “train up a child in the way he should go.”