The Family that Practices Together…Makes More Music

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Where’d You Grow Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday SUNDAY?

I’ve grown musical…

Or at least my creative space has grown to include some musical instruments. Over the last week (give or take a few days) a transition has started to happen, in my room for sure, but in my mothering too.  I went from a drill-sergeant-instructive mother of a reluctant- french-horn-playing child (Middle Sprout)  to a flute-wielding music teacher of a music-loving-french-horn-enthusiast.

There comes a point in parenting when auto-pilot seems like a feasible approach.

“The kids are self-sufficient,” I justify.

“They are independent and competent, and they will most certainly be contributing members of society… if I just make sure they stay on track.”

That is a form of parenting… but it’s not teaching.

My husband is in the middle of his master’s courses in education, and we have talked regularly this past week about the responsibilities of teachers. I am challenged by so many of the things upon which we’ve agreed.

Teachers should be interested in knowing the children they teach. They should be challenged to teach TO that kid not AT them. Creativity needs to be fostered, not squelched, and that goes for both the instructor and the instructee.

The same line of thinking has gnawed at me with regard to coaching. I contend that coaches ARE teachers and by thinking like teachers it changes the entire approach to that role. Everything becomes a teaching moment.

So when I asked my daughter this week what I could do to help stop the fights over practicing her french horn, she answered, “I want you to help teach me.”

I sat with that request. I considered the fact that I’ve been trained as a teacher, that I consider myself a coach of people.. and I was failing her.

My first day with “music teaching” on my mind, I went in with Middle Sprout to listen to her practice. I realized that when she was in our front room, she could hear all the noise and music of her siblings in the basement. It was not conducive to her learning. So we moved.  I helped her to set up her stand, chair, and instrument in the writing space of my room. An appropriate space for creativity, I thought.

She played. I listened. She asked me to play with her. So I dusted off my flute case, relearned the fingerings so I could play them an octave higher than her, and the flute/ french horn duet began.

I have practiced with her every day since. We are both getting better, and she has come to remind me to play instead of waiting for me to harp reminders at her.

We had a visitor to our music practice, yesterday. Big Sprout toted his violin case…the one that seems to have shrunken in the last two years…and he bowed, plucked and strummed. A guitar would be a better match for the music he is trying to make, and I’ll be adding that instrument to the room.

Music is meant to be shared, and I had been asking our daughter to hide herself away and practice regularly on her own. I’m a mom, but I’m a teacher too, and even if my investment in our children makes my blogposts late…we all deserve more music.

In addition to my new role as a music teacher, I had an opportunity this week to interview and observe one of the most inspirational music teachers I have ever seen. I’ll be writing a full piece about the Drumline teacher and coach at Wellstone Elementary school in St. Paul, but I’ll leave you with a slideshow/audio clip of what it sounds like to motivate 30 sixth graders to make music together.

Here is an additional youtube clip of the Wellstone Drumline performing.

Music depends upon the instrument…but it depends more upon the teacher. Music is shaping the lives of those kids at Wellstone…and I’ve made a decision to let the movement of music be a shaping agent in our house too.

If you have a good choosing to grow story, I would love to help you share it.  Email me story ideas or links to choosingtogrow@meaganfrank.com.

Happy growing!

copyright 2012   Choosing to Grow                                                         Meagan Frank

Leap in Tween Things…

Where’d You Grow Wednesday? February 29, 2012

This past week I have grown to accept the fact… I am the parent of tweens.

Technically, I have been the parent of a tween for over two years, but this week it really hit me about what phase of life I am attempting to parent. It actually took two separate trips to the junior high to convince me of this.

My first visit was as an attendee for the informational meeting for parents of incoming seventh graders. Our oldest is a sixth grader at the elementary school, and he is slotted to start his junior high experience next year. Nothing makes enrolling a kid in junior high more tangible than the start of the spring registration process.

I suppose I should have been more prepared for the feelings of nostalgia and anxiety that walked with me into that school. As I got out of my car, I was somewhere between acceptance and denial that I am actually old enough to have birthed a junior-high-aged kid. I can only imagine how much more heightened those emotions would be if our kids were attending the same junior high I did as a kid.  I think it is a blessing that this junior high is new…for all of us.

So it’s happening, and tween stuff can no longer be ignored.

Our older two kids are 9.5 and nearly 12. They both fall firmly into the category, and I thus am reluctantly committed to accepting my role as the mother of these precious tweens.

That means I need to know how long it’s going to take for me to get to the junior high.  That means that questions about puberty are developmentally appropriate and necessary. That means that there are a whole host of things I will struggle to discover about my own kids because they too are caught…in between.

That’s why I went back to the junior high again last night. I pushed through the freezing rain and predicted hazardous roads to attend a community event called: Not My Kid: A Community Conversation on Youth Suicide.

I was just as reluctant to go as I am about admitting we have tweens in our house, but I’ve made a decision to take charge of the things I can, and pray for graceful acceptance of all those things that are out of my hands.

I am so glad I went.

Like most people, I avoid thinking about mortality as much as I can. I shudder at the idea that anything bad could ever happen to our kids, and it is too overwhelming to consider that they would ever feel bad enough to do anything harmful to themselves.

I needed to hear what was shared last night, and I urge all parents to work through their own discomfort to understand our role in protecting all kids from themselves.

There were a lot of interesting stats given during the presentation:

Nationally:

  • Every 15 minutes, someone commits suicide
  • Over the past 5 years, there has been a 320% increase in the suicide rate of girls ages 10-14

In Minnesota:

  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-34 year olds
  • 1 in 8 teens is depressed

In Washington County:

  • 12% of sixth graders have had suicidal thoughts
  • 15% of ninth graders have had suicidal thoughts (100 9th graders have tried)

These are alarming statistics, but simply pretending they are not there will not make them go away.

We have a responsibility as parents, and community members, to care for the safe growth of children. Every child deserves a chance to move through the tween and teen years with loving support and care.

Factors that are known to decrease the risks of suicide for youth:

  • If they have contact with at least one caring adult
  • When they feel a sense of connection (activities, teams, etc.)
  • When they have positive self-esteem accompanied by good coping skills
  •  If they have access to care for emotional/ physical problems

So, what does that do to my approach as a parent?

I came home from the event and started a dialogue with our oldest.  He knew where I had gone, and he wanted to know what I had learned. I was comforted knowing that open communication with tweens is encouraged. After the presentation, I was armed with the information to talk with him about the signs he can look for in either himself, or his friends.

I asked him, “If you are with a friend and he breaks his arm, would you try to fix it?”

He laughed at how ridiculous that decision would be.

“It’s the same with a depressed person,” I told him. “There is a very real thing going on in that person’s brain that requires professional, and sometimes medical attention.”

This is what it is to be the parent of a tween.

I have to come to terms with my own feelings and emotions before I can work through things with our kids. The suggestions of the presenter for talking about youth suicide apply to how I can navigate all parts of this tween phase.

  • Deal with my own reactions and emotions first
  • Stay away from gossip and overdramatizing… stick to the facts
  • Remain nonjudgmental about any information my kids share with me (including their darkest emotions)
  • Ask them to Tell Me More and listen intently

Everyone always told me that parenting got harder. I can see that now.  My tweens are already much more independent, but it is precisely because of that independence that parenting them can become difficult.

I am up for the challenge, and I will leap in…ready or not.

*******There is much more information about preventing youth suicide, including a short video created by last night’s presenter, that can be found on the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide website.***********

To learn more about what it takes to choose to grow, or to see what CTG project Meagan is working on, you can visit her website at www.meaganfrank.com.

Happy Growing!!

copyright 2012  Choosing to Grow                                       Meagan Frank

Where’d You Grow Wednesday?

January 18, 2012 Edition

Shore of Lake Superior in Duluth, MN

I grew excited about being a goalie’s mom.

Going to Duluth for hockey is not an unusual trip for me. Our oldest has had a tournament there at least once a year for the last four years.

What was different about this trip was the fact that this tournament was a girls’ hockey tournament…and the player in my room…well, she was the goalie.

I knew when our daughter expressed an interest in playing full-time goalie for her hockey team, it was going to be a growing experience for both of us. What I didn’t expect was what that growth would look and feel like. And I was especially unprepared for how much I would learn about her in the process.

Playing sports makes people vulnerable. If they play with every ounce of energy and emotion that they have, they leave the field, or the court, or the rink completely spent.

Playing goalie makes people even more vulnerable. It takes a special kind of character to put yourself on the line between the other team and the goal they are shooting toward.

It takes self-confidence, focus, fearlessness and strength.

I’m not a good goalie. My daughter…well, she is a good goalie.

It’s not just that she has some physical skill. What I learned about my daughter this weekend is that she has a focus and an intensity that keeps her present in a potentially stress-filled situation. She has a calm presence and a confidence I wasn’t even aware she had.

Here she is….the tiny little goalie at center-ice

She remained poised through the weekend, and I was fascinated watching this side of her emerge.

I loved too, the role I got to play as “Haley’s Mom.”

Because she has additional equipment to put on, I get to be in the locker-room with the team as they prep for practices and games. By the end of the weekend, the entire team would yell when I entered, “Hi, Haley’s mom!” and I would reply, “Hi, Haley’s teammates!”

I helped to tie player’s skates, pull on jerseys, tighten equipment and give fist bumps as they waited.  It was a connection to this special group of girls that I hadn’t anticipated…All because my daughter is the goalie.

Some additional fun photos of the girls:

Painting nails between games

Watching intermission entertainment at the U of M vs. UMD women's hockey game

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other places of inspiration for growth I’ve found this week:

Mamawolfe shared yet another inspirational link about taking teenagers to a soup kitchen.

This video shows a birthday wish created by a woman’s dying husband. (get kleenex for this one) It’s a reminder to love completely, every chance you get.

Have any other inspirational growing stories you want to share? Email me the link or send me the photos of where you grow: You can email me  choosingtogrow@meaganfrank.com or post your story on my Facebook page.

Happy Growing!

To learn more about Meagan Frank, you can visit her at her website:  www.meaganfrank.com

 

 

 

Embracing the Mess of Motion

I love time-lapse photography. I am grateful to this family for putting up a video clip that so closely resembles the way the holidays feel for me.  Actually, any point of the year when all three of our children are home feels just like this.

Motion

Mess

Motion

Mess

Motion

You get the picture. I know I only have the mess because of their motion, and I intend to take time regularly to remind myself that I WILL MISS THE MOTION.

There will be stillness in this house…eventually. There will be times of silence…eventually. Those things that I safely store on the counter will actually stay put…eventually.

I don’t want to make that motionless time come any closer than it already has.

Our oldest is 11. The other day he pointed out that he is already more than half done with his time in our home.

I don’t want to believe that. I want to believe that the motion will stay this way forever.

I absolutely know better.

I didn’t really make a new year’s resolution this year, except that I want to yogify my life. As part of that process I intend to be in the moment. It means I embrace each part of my life, whether it is the motion… or the mess.

My little mess-makers are making messes back in their classrooms today, and I have had a few minutes to contemplate (clean) and give thanks.

I’m moved to gratitude for the motion… and the mess… in our home.

I’m moved to offer comfort and prayers for the local families who have to deal with the sudden loss of motion.

For the family and friends of a 3-year-old Minneapolis boy who was killed by a stray bullet, and for the family and friends of a 16-year-old Benilde-St. Margaret hockey player who lies motionless in a hospital bed after a check into the boards.

There is motion and mess in my house, but there is motion and mess outside of my house too. Perspective only comes when we can see the whole picture.

Motion leads to mess, but it matters most how we decide to be moved by the life around us.

How will you be moved this week?

Copyright 2012 Choosing to Grow- Meagan Frank

To learn more about Meagan Frank, you can visit her at her website: www.meaganfrank.com

Writing is a Four-Pronged Fork…Eat up!

It’s Wednesday.

And, I’ve been walking.

The mind-shifting walk this past week was the one I took with my Littlest Sprout and Mini Sprout.

Little Sprout is our soon-to-be-six-year-old who is currently sitting in her kindergarten classroom for the second day.

Mini Sprout is our ten-pound chiweenie who loves walks more than breathing.

Little Sprout had requested to ride her bike around a new path while I walked the dog.

Request granted.

When we walk around the lake, I see different things than my walking buddies . The dog sees squirrel tag games and peeing posts. Little Sprout sees “pretty gardens” and “secret paths”. They both point these things out to me as we walk, and the experience is fuller for all of us.

She sees a sleeping moon, and I see eternity. She sees a baby turtle, and I see the miracle of new life.  She sees a slinky caterpillar, and I see perpetual change. And she sees an uncatchable grasshopper, and I see courage and strength.

She hops off her bike several times to get a better look… and a picture. She shares what she sees with me, and I eagerly anticipate the days I can share with her what those things make me see now.

We head out of the canopied path and back to the street that will take us home. Little Sprout says, “That was a nice walk, Mommy.  Thank you.”

I thank her in response, and we chatter the last block away as she plans to share the pictures with her brother and sister. It’s all she wants to do.

It is just then that I realize what we have just experienced. This was a fork moment.

There has been an idea swirling in my head for the last few weeks, and it materialized completely on this walk.

The four prongs to writing, or art, or photography, or story-telling, or music, or well, I guess anything we create are as follows:

Experience.

Contemplate.

Create.

and Share.

Life is meant to be lived and experiences are meant to be had, but that is only part of what makes our lives feel complete and satisfying.

My life mantra can likely be summed up by Socrates, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”

Contemplation must accompany experience. A moment of reflection…a connection to past, present or future. That’s the logical.

Then there is the emotional. Allowing ourselves an opportunity to create in response to what we’ve thought about an experience. It is a luxury, I know, but it is as necessary as the involuntary rhythm of a beating heart.

Lastly, and most concupiscible… is the sharing. It is the human condition to want to share what we’ve created…what we’ve experienced…who we’ve become in the moments we truly lived.

Everyone is trying to share something. It takes intention to stop. To hear. To see. To appreciate the offerings of those around us. Don’t we all appreciate the people who ask us to share?

My challenge is to get better at celebrating the fork moments. Mine and theirs. To see my writing as what completes an experience for me, and as nothing more than my offering to share. While at the same time, inviting in how others are sharing too.

What do you do to create? What are the ways you share? Are you taking time to contemplate the experiences in your life?

I sincerely hope so…for the sake of all of us!

To learn more about Meagan Frank, you can visit her at her website:  www.meaganfrank.com

Letting Go of His “Me-Doll”… an Apocalyptic Lesson From Preschool

Today’s the day. The end of the world is upon us, and I want my last blog post…ever…to be an attempt to tie things all together.

Doomsdayer: “The end is here.”

ME (whose last preschooler finished school yesterday): “I know, I know. Isn’t it so sad?”

Doomsdayer: “The world is coming to an end.”

ME (still thinking about my own life): “It sure does feel like that. You know, I’m not as ready as I think I should be.”

Doomsdayer: “You need to repent.”

ME: “Repent? Oh, I hadn’t really thought of that.  What should I be sorry about?  Well, I guess I am sorry for a few things that happened along the way. There were plenty of mistakes made as the kids made their way through preschool, but I tried to learn from them.  Like Big Sprout’s “Me-Doll”.  Have you seen that thing?”

Doomsdayer:  “It is an Apocalypse!”

ME: “Apocalypse?  It’s bad, but that might be a bit extreme? I suppose if we talk about the “Me Doll” as an apocalyptic revealing of truth.  It most certainly was.

Here’s the story:

Big Sprout was assigned a Me-Doll project when he was four years old.  I have always been the stickler for school assignments and I read it literally:

1) Lay your child on the large piece of butcher paper.

2) Trace around his/her body and then cut it out.

3) Let your child draw him or herself and bring it back to school by Friday.

I started the project on Wednesday, because I knew my active and craft-hating, oldest son was going to complete this project, but begrudgingly.

Wednesday we traced and cut and then Thursday afternoon, I laid his paper version of himself out on a piece of carboard and presented it to him with a bucket of crayons and markers.

He started with the black marker and drew a pair of beady eyes that matched his little dot nose.  He put a great big beaming smile, a tuft of hair and a few toes.

He took out the yellow and drew the start of a shirt, but then he went back to the black marker. He put on his nipples and belly-button, and then…he took out the blue marker.

I smiled, proudly, as he drew more of his shirt and went down to what would have been the outside of his leg. Remembering what was likely the most important self-discovery of that year for him, he then drew on his blue genitalia.

My smile shifted to shock as I watched his little hand work and the blue balls take form.

I was left speechless as my art-exhausted son jumped to his feet and declared,

“I’m done!”

He ran out of the room completely satisfied with his rendition of himself, and I sat– stunned.

How was I going to carry in a blue-balled, naked me doll to be hung in the halls of the Catholic preschool?

I knew better than to chastise his self-image, because it really was an appropriate view of himself.  The problem was, it was not appropriate wall-art for a preschool.

I showed his dad, when he got home from work.

“What the hell is that?” he asked.

“It’s our son. Or at least his best attempt at an artistic expression of himself,” I tried to convince myself.

“He can’t take THAT to school,” he pointed.

“I know, but he is done drawing for today, and I don’t want this to scar him,” I worried.

“Well, maybe I can get him to draw on some clothes tomorrow before school,” my husband softened.

It worked, Big Sprout saw our logic when we explained to him that even Me-Doll’s need to get dressed for school, so he got out the black marker again.

He scribbled on some clothes, added the stripes of what looked like a referee uniform, and off we went to the preschool unveiling. (internally apocalyptic for me!)

Astride on the arms of his classmate’s parents were the most elaborate me-dolls I had ever seen.  There were princesses and cowboys, superheroes and firefighters. Many of the dolls were three-dimensional and some had fabric and buttons!

I slowed my entrance as the limp referee sadly hung on my arm. I felt like the worst mother ever.

I had volunteered for the day, and as my punishment for being a pathetic mother, I was sentenced to hang all the me-dolls along the wall.

I pounded the staples into the wall. Felt my heart race with every doll hung, and I just knew Big Sprout was going to have to come to terms with my inadequacies.

He walked in from recess with his classmates and was overjoyed when he found himself among the wall-hangings. He bounded off smiling and proud of his presentation.  He was perfectly fine with his Me-Doll…just the way it was. That day I learned that I needed to be fine with his presentations too.

The origin of the word apocalypse includes the idea of uncovering…revealing.

Today marks the end of preschool for our family. It could be the end of the world too, but in case it’s not, it can still be a day for a triumph of good over evil.

Every phase of life offers such chances for victory…we just have to be willing to seek out the truth of the matter, and accept the presentations offered. The more raw, honest and revealing the offerings, the more important that acceptance is.

I am grateful for my revelations…and I want to be mindful of every one. All the way up to the very end.