My mom made the mistake of labeling her children. I was “the smart one.” The older of my younger brothers was “the musical one” and the youngest one was “the scientist.” I realized the other day that it was HER mistake and really had nothing to do with me or with reality.
What her labels meant were that my one brother would get to be in band, the other could get away with blowing stuff up, and I could find out anything I wanted to learn for myself.
The musical brother played trumpet, and then he got to take piano lessons. He refused to practice and I told my mom that if I had piano lessons, I would practice every day because playing the piano was something I really wanted to learn. Instead of just telling me that she couldn’t afford for both of us to take piano, she told me HE would get to because HE was the musical one. She said I was the smart one and would do better in lots of things and that I should let him have music.
i LOVE music.
My assumption was that my mother didn’t want me to learn any music. Not only that, but that I would somehow ruin our family if I learned how to play a musical instrument, so I deferred that to my brother. In seventh grade, I joined choir. It didn’t cost my mom anything. She didn’t even have to take me back and forth to lessons.
Actually, I’m not sure if it was really an assumption that kept me away from music as a child … It may have been a little girl’s mind agreeing (or at least submitting) to the misplaced opinion of a guiding adult. My mom made a lot of mistakes. Oh well. Life goes on. Time to get over it.
I know she never wanted to warp me for life. In fact, her strong objections to me ever doing anything that might cost her money made me virtually self-sufficient by the age of 15. I had a job, bought my own food, and even loaned her a substantial amount of money for the down payment on the house she still lives in. I paid my own lab, choir, and cheerleading fees, bought my own books, and got myself into a world-class university. I did get scholarships and a grant, but what that didn’t cover, I paid myself. Plus, I worked 20 hours a week and did over 4,000 hours of volunteer work at the hospital WHILE going to school.
Looking back on this period, I can see now that my mom’s labels were her way of categorizing her own fragmented life. In the conversation above, and many others like it, she was trying to reason with me, not destroy me. She has always thought I was smarter than her, even when I was 7, and told her that it was time to stop spanking me when she was mad. She complied. I am sure now that she never really cared if I learned to play musical instruments. She just couldn’t pay for it and tried to appeal to my sisterly sympathies in allowing my brother to live the dream.
Meanwhile, he doesn’t regularly play any music and I am still trying to find the money to learn.