Earlier this week, I sought feedback on the launch of Parents Can Coach from some friends whose children are learning music with Nurture With Love.
With us being friends within and outside of music lessons for many years, I was looking to get some honest views on what parts of Parents Can Coach clicked and resonated with them, what didn't and their suggestions for improvement.
And boy, did I get a frank response from one parent who shared that their family would not be joining Parents Can Coach because... I don't have boys.
To be just as frank, the words stung. Perhaps because I have been on the receiving end of these exact words many times before. What parents of boys usually mean is that boys are different from and in their view, more challenging to manage than girls. Having only daughters, I wouldn't be able to comprehend, empathise nor have any experience to lend in being a parent to boys.
Ouch. Really, ouch. Rather than let that response be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back and have me going ballistic over the fact that not having sons is not something that I have control over, I made a deliberate effort to detach myself from any emotional uprisings bubbling up inside of me and evaluated the comment in the context of Parents Can Coach being an inclusive programme that supports every family at the studio.
True. Not having the personal experience of being a parent to boys could be a gap.
How do I address this as a possible shortcoming of the programme?
Then it became clear: The solution lies with every family in this studio. The solution is in community.
I may not have sons. But some of you do.
I may not have twins. But some of you do.
I may not have four or more children. But some of you do.
I may not juggle a new baby while overseeing music practice with the older children. But some of you do.
I may not yet have a child taking the PSLE or older children in their teens. But some of you do.
This is the very essence of why Parents Can Coach was born. The collective experience and wisdom within the parent community can be encouraging and reassuring. Every family has its own struggles and positive experiences. Parents Can Coach aims to connect parents to exchange with and learn from one another on what helps them to progress and successfully overcome their challenges. Be we parents to boys, girls or both, we are more similar than we think ourselves to be. My 9 year-old daughter whom people now see as a demure and accomplished cello student was, also, once an extremely active and cheeky 3 year-old who circled the classroom to talk to other students in the middle of a lesson. My 7 year-old girl who displays beautiful posture at the piano so easily and naturally was once hauled home midway through a class under the strong arm of her very frustrated father for spending a good part of the lesson rolling on the floor.
My family's experiences in our early days of taking lessons could be no different from what some of you might be experiencing with your son or daughter right now. We are all working to do the same thing. We don't see one another's struggles simply because we have not connected often and deeply enough to share them. Not yet. When we do, the impact of connection will be powerful and transformative. This is why Parents Can Coach has come about.
If you ever find yourself asking whether your child should join the string ensemble as a Co-Curricular Activity in school, I am here to share my experience.
If you are feeling frustrated about being stuck in a practice rut, trust me - there will be somebody who has gone through or is experiencing the exact same thing right now.
If you are parent to a child gearing up for PSLE, please raise your hand - I want to hear what it's like to manage a heavier load at school with a growing repertoire of more technically-challenging and longer music pieces.
Be it girl or boy. Baby or teen. Piano or cello. ECE or Book 5. I find that our role as the parent coach - and as a community of parents, is best expressed by music teacher and parent educator Christine Goodner: To just take each child as they are, on that day, and help them improve from there.
"Look at the child in front of you - see where they are today and help them make things a little easier and gain a little more confidence."
"Children learn from one another." - Dr Suzuki
We know that group lessons and studio activities like recitals benefit our children. Now believe that being part of this same community will benefit you as much as it benefits them.
Just as being immersed in a musical environment is the best way to learn music, learning how to nurture and grow successful families through the medium of music education is best learned by being immersed in a community of people working towards the same goals.