My son has started playing the viola this year. He enjoys it but, quite honestly, he is not very good. Obviously, he has recently started so I am not expected great things from him (at least not yet). Still, there is another problem. He does not want to practice. This does not mean he does not want to play the instrument; he just wants to be able to pick it up when it is time to play and dazzle everyone without having but the time and effort into it.
I actually understand this. When I was younger, I played trombone. The same could be said of me. I wanted to play and play well but I did not want to spend time, or waste time, practicing.
As a parent, I try to urge my son to practice and put the necessary time in. It has just as much of an impact on him as it did on me when my parents used to make the same argument. But, what happens when parents have the same expectations as children, that they should be able to avoid practicing and just pick up an instrument when they want and play like a professional?
This past week I was at a teachers’ meeting for the Hebrew school where I teach. The discussion ultimately came to what parents expect us to teach their children. Of course, each parent is going to have a different feeling about this. Still, it occurred to me that the parents, in large part, want the same thing as their children.
The children come in to Hebrew school and tell you they do not want to be there. They are only in class for three-and-a-half to four hours a week. They do not want to have to pay attention. They want to be able to talk with their friends. They do not want to do any work at home but they want to leave being able to speak and read Hebrew fluently. The parents seem to think this is a fair expectation. I have heard some parents tell teachers “It is only Hebrew school,” or ask “Why did you separate my child from her friend, they just want to be able to talk”. Still, those parents do not understand why, when their child comes home why s/he is unable to speak fluently.
In addition, the parents want to avoid doing anything in the home to help this education. They want to have someone baby sit their child and be the surrogate for teaching Hebrew and Judaism, giving the child a Jewish identity. Again, it does not work like that. What is taught at Hebrew School must be reinforced at home.
I am not sure what the solution to the problem is, or if you will ever be able to solve it but borrowing a concept from Perkei Avot (although making some modifications to make my point), “Just because you will not solve the problem, it does not exempt you from trying and discussing it”. By the way, I believe the actual quote from Perkei Avot is, “Just because you will not finish the job, you are not exempt from starting it”.