Grow Together
/ Author: Jonathan Heinen
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Grow Together

By Jon Heinen, CLAC Representative

My eight-year-old was learning a new piano piece called “Chromatic Rag” over the holiday break. I was in the unfortunate position of having to suggest he put his newly acquired Nintendo game away and focus on practicing, particularly the left hand notes. He had learned the right hand notes fairly quickly, which was a groovy and catchy run that was actually quite complicated, but he clearly enjoyed the melody enough to learn it without much prompting.

The left hand notes were much less engaging, and he was begging me to practice later. As you might guess, he even turned on the waterworks in a desperate attempt to change my mind.

As a parent, I felt conflicted. On one hand, it was the holidays! I wanted my child to enjoy his vacation from the structure and discipline of regular life—we all deserve a break, right? On the other hand, I want to encourage the value of working hard. If he doesn’t keep it up, he could lose the skill.

Eventually, he bore down and learned the first eight bars of the left hand; and much to my delight, he actually felt good about his achievement.

I’m more and more aware of how difficult personal growth is, especially as I raise children. I was in the uncomfortable position of having to tell my child what he had to do: sorry, no Nintendo. You’re going to practice piano!

While it was agonizing, I think that was precisely my job as parent. That said, I didn’t do it without understanding that my decision was going to create chaos in my son’s world, and that I would have to work with him to see value in practicing. Luckily, my other children were playing elsewhere, and I was able to sit with him, calm him down, and hold him as he struggled. I got him started by helping him identify the first note and where it was on the keys. Because he knows I care deeply for him, I was able to get him to the point where he could experience the reward of accomplishing a difficult task.

I have now “grown up” to adulthood and come to realize that this kind of gentle approach is much more difficult to find. It sometimes seems that the transition to adulthood requires toughness and a disdain for someone else’s help.

I would challenge that idea because personally, when I’m struggling and need a nudge in the right direction, I look for support. I am also happy to provide this kind of support for others. It’s one of the reasons I find value in the work I do every day as a CLAC representative. We are in an extremely privileged position to support working people—adults who need help from time to time, who need a calm and caring voice, and who sometimes need guidance as they search in new directions to find the successes and rewards for doing the hard work of personal growth.

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