Finding Balance in an Unbalanced Age: Taking Time to Adjust to Change

Woodrow Wilson House, Washington DC

High school has definitely tightened Natalie’s daily schedule, challenging her to measure and budget time differently, especially her free time.   Time for pleasure reading continues to be of utmost importance to her.  Time for modern dance is a priority.  Nothing gets in the way of watching “Downton Abbey” on Sunday evening (see blog post “Downton Abbey Ditty”).   Outdoor time – biking or walking – is important but occasionally gets dropped if sleep seems more critical.  And then there’s music — piano and voice.

During home schooling, Natalie started each morning practicing piano and voice.  This year, at that time, she is attending “Morning Meeting” (when the entire student body and teachers gather together for 15-20 minutes at the start of the day).  Since school started, time for music practice has shifted around and there’s never quite enough time to practice.  Fortunately, her music teachers have been incredibly supportive.  They knew Natalie was adjusting to a different life rhythm.  William and I knew Natalie had to figure out where music fit in to her new life.

I suppose this is where William and I differ from some parents we know who remind, cajole and pressure their children into practicing their instruments.  For example, reading in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother about Amy Chua’s forceful involvement in her daughters’ musical lives actually horrified me.  Thinking about it later made me realize that for me music is as much a personal spiritual practice as it is an art or craft.

This is where the ukulele stepped in, helping to re-frame expectations and lighten the mood.   By October, Natalie was figuring out that playing the piano was a nice break from studying.   But most days ended without time for voice practice.  Then guilt set in.  She felt bad by the time her lesson day rolled around.  When I asked if her teacher was still using the ukulele to accompany some of the songs, Natalie said she was.  I asked if it might be fun for Natalie to have her own ukulele.  Unlike the piano, this was an instrument she could carry anywhere for accompaniment.   Also until she adjusted to her “time change,” I thought it was more important for Natalie to have fun singing rather than feel burdened by another obligation.  Her teacher supported the idea.  Until the new schedule felt calmer, Natalie would sing for pure pleasure.

What’s more:  singing with the ukulele is infectious.  Sometimes I sing when Natalie’s singing.  We laugh a lot.  We also occasionally revise songs like this one you’ll probably recognize.   The original verse seemed a bit predictable to us.

The Bear Went Over the Mountain

Original verse:  The bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain to see what he could see.  To see what he could see, and all that he could see was the other side of the mountain, the other side of the mountain, the other side of the mountain was all that he could see.

One of our verses: The girl went over the mountain, the girl went over the mountain, the girl went over the mountain to see what she could see.  To see what she could see, and all that she could see was the blue, wide, open ocean, the blue, wide open ocean, the blue, wide, open ocean was all that she could see.

P.S. Natalie is excited about her next piano recital in April.


One Comment

  • Mary Ann

    Your posts are a delight and I look forward to each while following Natalie and your family’s adventures and discoveries.

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