Once upon a time, a couple and their little boy moved onto a beautiful five-acre property in rural southeast Oklahoma. As happens in rural areas, soon their mailman knew their names and their faces. Whenever he needed to drop off a package that wouldn’t fit in the mailbox, he would offer some small talk.
One day, not very long after the family began living in the country, the mailman, for no apparent reason, asked the lady of the house if she played the guitar. He was looking for somebody to jam with.
“Uh, yeah, sort of. But I’m just a beginner,” she said, feeling embarrassed. She had been a “beginner” for the past thirty or so years.
He let the matter drop, but a couple of times over the next two years, he asked about her guitar playing. Finally, the family’s fourth summer there, after the mailman delivered a large package he practically begged to hear the lady play.
The lady at first refused, then thought, “What the heck. I’ll do it and be done and he won’t ask again.”
So she went into the house to get her guitar, then sat outside and played the first verse of “Amazing Grace.” Sang, too.
And did a horrible job. She began shaking with nervousness from the first chord and had a hard time getting her voice to sound the way she knew it could. Full and beautiful.
All in all, it sucked. By the time she was finished, she wanted to whap the mailman over the head with the guitar.
She also developed a sudden empathy for her niece, who had been – about a month earlier – goaded by her mother to play the violin for the lady and her family when they were visiting the lady’s family.
Moral of the story: Please please please please PLEASE, if you have a kid who is learning an instrument, don’t demand that he or she perform for people other than the audiences he or she must perform for at recitals. It’s unnerving and embarrassing, and likely as not, your child won’t do anything close to his or her best.
Put yourself in their shoes. And remember that just because you’re the adult and they’re your kid doesn’t make it right to manipulate them.