Thursday, February 03, 2005

Of Dogs and Guitars

I have to preface this by noting: I really like dogs. The reason for the preface will become clear further on.

Last summer Younger Girl requested the chance to learn to play the guitar. Begged, in fact. We told her it would not always be fun. We told her she would be required to practice. We also mentioned that she was expected to put two years into the project before she would be allowed to butterfly in some other direction. She begged and we said sure.

About two months ago she started showing signs of unrest. For the last month getting her to practice has been a misery. In the last week she has declared that she is quitting guitar, and selectively rewritten history to suggest that Spouse was the one who forced her to play guitar. What is irritating about all this (aside from the general irritation of having to deal with her high-verbal stubborn argument) is that she's really quite good. But she's at the beginning of learning, and despite her teacher giving her cool stuff to work on, it's not all blistering Rock Goddess solos.

This morning, yet another confrontation. She tried all the same arguments--forced to study guitar ("I wanted to learn piano!"--well, she never mentioned that to anyone); fifteen minutes of guitar practice takes up too much of her time; we are mean (well, yes. Part of the job.) Me, I don't care if she learns to play guitar (Spouse, who has always felt that his parents didn't push him hard enough to stay with the musical instrument he studied--bassoon!--does care very much). But every time YG gets enthused about something, should I invest time and money and then let her drop it?

And here is where the Dogs come in. YG wants a dog. Going to the SPCA is like going to FAO Schwartz for her. And she keeps swearing that she will be responsible and take care of it and... I think Spouse is afraid that if I have to be responsible for one more living thing I will rise up and slay legions in my path. I think that is perhaps an overstatement. However, the girl's track record for follow-through is not splendid. And she's nine, so my expectatations of an immediate change in this are not high (I should note here that someone gave my family a dog when I was six; my mother decided, after six weeks, that she couldn't cope, and she gave the dog away. When I got my dog I was very clear on what would happen if I didn't take care of the dog). So there has been a certain amount of ambivalence about adding a canine to the family.

So we have struck a deal. Adopting a puppy from the local SPCA costs (after the training class, vet bills, etc.) about $300. Every time YG practices her guitar I will put one dollar in an envelope (already labelled "DOGGY MONEY"). That should get her through a year of guitar, anyway. I foresee many trips to the SPCA this year. And some backsliding, too.


Blogger Janni said...

I wonder if you could get it in writing from her next time? I mean, don't present it quite like that, but ask her to write down exactly what she's promising to do when she takes on her next fascination, so that you both can remember what was said.

I've met that wanting to do something, but only until one hits the hard bits, with other kids, too. It's hard, until you've pushed through a few times, to understand what pushing through and staying with it involves. And while there's no point in staying with things one hates, if one quits too soon one doesn't even know whether one hates it or not.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

I've suggested that for the next time. She likes the idea, because she is at heart a law-abiding sort (and a lawyer by nature).

In the meantime, I suggested that guitar be the thing she does first thing, even before homework, before she's tired or fed up. And (as she's learning "Jumpin' Jack Flash") today she put on the headphones and played along. I've seen the Stones in concert...she could probably play lead guitar for them and no one would know the difference; she's certainly got the attitude down. When she was done we put $1 in the Dog-velope. That's one day down, only 299 to go.

3:05 PM  

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