Annie Woebegon

Saturday Maddy and I went to the violin store to switch her rental violin for a larger size.  They brought out a bunch of violins for her to try and left us in a little aisle to decide which one she liked.

Two aisles over, a father was buying a new cello for his son.  He evidently knew the salesperson a little and they struck up a conversation.  First he talked about his astoundingly talented little young cellist, who is wowing everyone who teaches him, everyone he meets.  Then he moved to discuss another of his kids.

"Did you hear about my oldest?"


"He's in Paris this year.  Having a wonderful time.  He wrote a ballet for his girlfriend, can you believe it?  She's a ballerina there and he's head over heels."

"Wow.  A ballet?"

"Yes, he just wrote it on a whim.  Young love, eh? Well _____ showed it to _______ at the Boston Ballet and now they're thinking of performing it."

"The Boston Ballet? That's amazing!"

"I know.  Think of all the composers who would die for that chance. And then Johnny just writes his first ballet...That's not even the best part.  Somehow _______, the department head at Yale's School of Music, got his hands on it and sent Johnny a letter saying 'We want you.  When you get back to the States, you've got a place at Yale in the composition program.' He said he wanted to go to NEC and I said, 'Johnny, this is your decision but it's a great chance for you.'"

"That's....quite remarkable."

* * *

I hear this kind of thing all the time.

You know the Prairie Home Companion line about Lake Wobegon, "where all the children are above average"?  Well, where I live apparently all the children are stellar.  Extraordinary.  It used to send me into paroxyms of anxiety: should I, too,  be taking my kids to more lessons? pushing them to compete more? enrolling them in study courses for the study courses for the standardized tests? sending them to NASA camp and MIT science camp and Yale drama camp and Tanglewood music camp?

The answer is no, of course not. I believe in downtime and childhood and non-regimented exploring. But sometimes it's difficult not to get caught up in the competitive energy of it all.  I do believe in education, in interesting experiences, and in supporting talent and hard work. Actually, I'm proud of that boy who wrote the ballet.  That's pretty cool!  I just have to remember I'm raising people not college applicants, not just someone's future employee. I'm raising someone's best friend, someone's spouse, someone's mother or father. 

I have to remind myself that what I want for my kids is a good life, with challenges and joys.  
To find something they love to do and develop the work ethic to do it well.  
To find someone to love and to know how to be loving.  
To use their imaginations and create ideas and passions to follow. 
To be able to articulate their thoughts.  
To be involved citizens and engaged neighbors.
And, really, the camp for those things is called home.