A question, for you, O Internet: How do you decide if, and when, it's okay to let your kid quit?
My children have quit lots of things. Every sport they've ever attempted, for example. I still have a garbage bag full of karate belts in the basement somewhere, probably buried under Ezra's cricket equipment. (That passion flamed out when he realized he actually wasn't any...good? At cricket? And that was fine, because I was likewise not any good at being Team Parent. I still have the t-shirt, though!) They're all good strong swimmers but begged to quit lessons once they hit the higher levels that involved the diving board and the unheated pool at the Y. And we let them quit because we got super sick of listening to them collectively bitch about it every goddamn Saturday morning.
Ezra dabbled in guitar and attempted violin (arrgghhh my earssss) before finally settling on the flute -- which he loves! And actually IS very good at! Like kinda phenom good at! Which is great! Except it means the cheap little student flute we bought for $75 off Craigslist is no longer working for him and I just learned what an "acceptable" flute actually costs this past weekend and OH MY GOD. Anybody wanna buy some lightly used cricket equipment? Or a couple dozen karate belts, assorted colors? I'll even throw in some deflated soccer balls and a busted Fender amp.
And then there's Noah. And the saxophone. He's been playing it since fourth grade and -- like Ezra and the flute -- he's REALLY good. Like, super naturally talented, makes-it-look-and-sound-easy good.
And for years now, we have wholeheartedly (and whole-wallet-ly) nurtured and supported his talent. We've attended every concert, every performance, scattered around the county with his (ultra-bored) brothers in tow. We pay and drive 30 miles round-trip for private lessons every week. We're still making monthly payments on the professional-level instrument he upgraded to a year ago. Tonight we're paying for a professional accompanist to come to our house and practice a duet for some music festival audition his teacher recommended him for. (But then neglected to mention to us that the audition would require the services of a professional accompanist until after we signed him up, ok thx.)
And he hates it.
He just...hates it. And he wants to quit. And part of me wants to let him, but the other part of me is just like AAAASHSODHONOOOOOODF38RDSNVNooooo!!
He works harder at not practicing these days than he's ever worked on anything in his life. He hopes we'll just forget, or eventually tire of nagging and reminded him. He blew what should have been a shoo-in audition for the county's Gifted & Talented band because he didn't bother to practice any of the required scales ahead of time. He got bumped down to a less advanced ensemble at school because he kept trying to nap (?!?) during rehearsal periods. He won't even consider an afterschool ensemble (of which there are many to choose from) and turns down any solo parts he's offered. At his last concert he seemed much more interested in the state of his cuticles than in anything else around him on stage. He doesn't care about the cool trips the bands get to take, he thinks marching band sounds mortifying, and have I mentioned the practicing, which is literal actual torture on this earth?
And last week, he told his guidance counselor to drop band from his proposed high school schedule and put him in an art class instead. (I don't think he realized that she'd confirm the change with us first, that snitch.)
And look, an art class is GREAT! I have no problem with an art class! I think it's 1,000% more likely that Noah will end up in a field that requires some kind of graphic design skill and where "Was Very Good At Saxophone" will not factor in at all! Perhaps he knows that and is just trying to be practical!
But when we asked him about it, he said he chose that particular art class because it "sounded easy." When we asked him if, HYPOTHETICALLY, he could quit band, would he consider an art- or technology-related extracurricular instead? We rattled off a few possibilities that seemed in line with his interests. He said maybe, but only if it didn't 1) happen after school, 2) involve any extra homework or projects, or 3) require any sort of time or effort or commitment at all beyond him showing up and like, staring into space or watching YouTube the whole time.
WELCOME TO LIFE, SON. THAT'S NOT HOW ANY OF IT WORKS.
(EXCEPT FOR MAYBE THE YOUTUBING AS A CAREER OPTION. HONESTLY NEVER SAW THAT ONE COMING.)
So for now the plan is for him to continue band in ninth grade. I guess? I don't know. It feels like we're signing on for another year of making everybody annoyed and cranky and OH EM GEE, when I think about all the money and time we'd get back if we just let him up and quit...
But maybe with a little more maturity he'll come to find some pride or appreciation for his talent? Plus most of his current friends are zoned for different high schools, so at least band will start him out with a baseline of a peer group? And then he can settle into his new school (which is a total pressure cooker) and see if there's something else he's willing to put some effort into after that? And then, yes, my child. Go ahead and quit.
(Perhaps right around the same time that we finally pay off his saxophone and can sell it for flute money. Ah, the circle of life.)