For the last three days Eldest has been on a County Chamber Music course. Playing his cello.
When the invitation to sign up came out he met all the criteria and so I asked him if he was interested and surprisingly he said he was. I might have mentioned his old cello teacher would be there. And he might have been slightly distracted by Minecraft but he agreed readily.
Of course on the morning of the first day he was less keen. He didn’t want to go. He was nervous of meeting new people and of not being a good enough player. I assumed that he would be with others roughly his age playing music roughly of the right standard.
Well he got through that first day and had texted me during it with reassuring little messages. He was exhausted, as expected after concentrating for five hours, but went to bed happy enough.
The next morning however he was weeping into his Weetabix refusing to go back. He felt that he wasn’t good enough, that he would let his other quartet members down, that he had no one to talk to. Suffice to say that a combination of the lack of the promised teacher, three girls in his group much older than him, and apparently much better players than him, and not being able to find the toilets had put him off.
And then I had that dilemma all parents face. How much to push.
It doesn’t matter in what field or at what level, at some point every parent has to decide whether to push or not. It can be anything, anywhere. A party for five year olds when they just want to cling to your leg. The decision to send them on a Cub camp or not. The first residential school trip. Your toddler screaming on the side of a swimming pool refusing to jump in for the teacher. When they are stuck up a large tree you have no hope of climbing and the only way forwards is for them to come down by themselves. How to leave your sobbing four year old on the first day of school.
All of these, and a myriad others particular to each child, involve this knife edge decision.
In this case the instinctive part of me wanted to just ring up the course co-ordinator and say he wasn’t coming back. And tear a strip off him for the lack of introductions, support and basic venue familiarisation undertaken for my 11 year old.
But then the rational part of me remembered that my son is highly strung, a perfectionist, liable to remember only the negative. And a brilliant cellist for his age. Who played a solo in front of 250 people at the end of year school shin dig without much fuss.
I realised that if he quit those three violinists would be left in the lurch.
I knew from experience that although the performance aspect would be scary it would also be exhilarating.
And so I rang the co-ordinatior, bit my tongue and merely explained the facts. He spoke to Eldest and reassured him and he agreed to go back. I made a separate deal. That if he could ring me at lunch and tell me hand on heart that he had hated the whole morning I would fetch him back, no questions asked.
Of course that didn’t happen. His old teacher materialised. The girls found out he was only in Year 7 and took him under their wing. He rang me at lunch to ask if he could order pizza and stay between the end of the dress rehearsal and the actual concert so he could spend more time with them.
We are leaving soon to watch him. He will probably go wrong. And be a bag of nerves. That is fine. But he will also get a massive high from the experience.
He will feel braver and more self confident as a result of pushing through the fear. Let’s face it life is full of things we do not want to face.
And I was right to push.
But it is a balancing act.
Too much pushing will see him resent me for making him do things that made him miserable.
Too little and he will miss out on experiences that could really enrich his life.
It’s a toughie.