sweet violin headache

Don’t ask me why Rex is suddenly constantly on my writer’s brain, but this week’s column is just one more little glimpse at life with my quirky little darling.

“Our very young five-year-old, Rex, is learning to play the violin.

I’ll be honest, we (Daddy, our child psychologist and myself) thought this would be a great learning experience for him. He’d  learn to sit still, care for a delicate instrument, take individual instruction.

No one mentioned that the person really learning here would be me.

Our first week, Rex’s teacher taught him the different parts of the instrument, how to hold the bow, and made his assignment simple: Have him spend five minutes a day learning to hold the violin under his chin without hands for thirty second increments. Sounds easy enough, right?

Now imagine trying to teach a monkey to play Bach on the bagpipes. That’s what the first week was like for me. It was the longest, most exasperating thirty-five minutes I’ve ever experienced.

Rex has clinical anxiety, especially when it comes to learning new things (or trying new food, but that’s another column). When he gets anxious, he gets jumpy and worried and excited and frightened all at the same time. It’s like he’s instantly got 7Up running through his veins. He hops around, he does cartwheels–it’s like he can’t decide if he’s a monkey or a man.

With a violin in his hands, this is a recipe for splintered wood.

I’ve got to be honest, it was a major lesson in patience for me and I didn’t really do all that well. We usually only made it two or three minutes, not the whole five, and it took about three practice “sessions” for him to finally settle down and actually put the violin under his chin. (It took the whole week for me to master not yelling during practice.)

He also spent a good twenty minutes setting up all his animal friends every afternoon so they could “Watch the concert!” Rex is really into staging.

I was dreading his second lesson. I had to sit in the car and feed the baby during the first ten minutes, but I snuck in at the end. And what do you think I saw?

My boy, sitting quietly and pointing out all the key features of his little instruments. He remembered the horsehair, the bridge, the pegs, the rosin. He showed his teacher where the frog was, how to tighten the bow, and even managed to hold it under his chin like an old pro.

Sometimes we think our kid just isn’t getting it, that because they won’t straighten up and perform from square one, they’re never going to learn. But that moment of watching him with his teacher, realizing that all the things I’d been saying during the week had cemented in his sweet little brain, made me step back and see my son a little differently. All he needed was time. Was that really so much to ask of me?

Tonight is his third lesson, and he couldn’t be happier. Frankly, neither could I.”


  1. He sounds like a normal 5 year old boy to me! 🙂

  2. It’s all a lesson in patience–for us. I am always amazed at the transformation my kids go through when they’re at someone else’s home (they’re angels), in a lesson (rapt with attention) or at church (behave themselves…unless it’s Sacrament meeting, of course). At least I know they are pleasant for other people!

  3. Good job, Mom! (My son started telling me that one time when he was really little & I was trying to help/show him about picking up his toys.) Kids are so incredibly amazing & wonderful & even better @ teaching us then I think we teach them sometimes.

    I loved that he arranges his stuffed animals to “hear” his concert. Gave me the best laugh this am.

  4. This is why I don’t require parent involvement in the piano lessons I teach. I know what happens when I tried to “help” my children. It was not “helpful” and I don’t want to put any other parent through that. It isn’t a given that parent involvement equals a good thing! I appreciated the teachers that told me just to let it go rather than lose my mind. It saved both me and my children a lot of heart ache . . . .

    That being said, traditional piano lessons and Suzuki (if that is what you are doing) violin lessons are totally different animals!

  5. Hang on! You will never regret having a kid with that talent. Many times I have been in tears (of joy) listening to the sweet strains of my baby play.

  6. Go super mom! Love this post.

  7. Way to go Rex! And way to hang in there Annie. You are doing an awesome job. One day maybe he’ll play at Carnegie Hall and will thank you for that time spent helping him learn. And even if he doesn’t play at the Hall he’ll still thank you.

    BTW did you know that my husbands middle name is Rex? Great name.

  8. Annie: A must read–Helping Parents Practice, Ideas for Making it Easier. Author: Edmund Sprunger.

  9. I love to read your stories… because I consider your posts to be short stories. They always have a great beginning, middle, and end. And if I was a writer I am sure I would know the terms for that. But I can barely spell writer.

    And now is the time to invest in Excedrin.

  10. This! This is why I’m so bugged about the karate fiasco! Just because they don’t seem to be getting it doesn’t mean they aren’t getting it! I’ve spent my entire adult life teaching people, young and old, how to play the piano. And I can tell you, a student has to be aggressively, actively ignoring me to not improve over time.

    If a teacher doesn’t understand that, they have chosen the WRONG profession.

    Yay for Rex!!

  11. Go Annie!! I think the most important part of being a mommy is figuring out what makes our kids tick. Once we are really working on understanding them, then the doors just open and we actually get it.

  12. As the mom of a violinist, I am here to remind you (over and over for the next five years) that it only gets better. The neck strain you will develop from turning away from the screech? That is an invitation for a professional massage.

  13. Like Emily and Tina, I simply see this as a parent vs. teacher thing. I’ve experienced it from the parent end the teacher end. I wish my kids were as responsive for me as they are for their teachers, but I’m just glad they’re doing well with their teachers. Way to go, Rex! I think it’s AWESOME that he’s learning violin!

  14. I love when my little boy teaches me sweet little lessons like that!