When I first had children I read lots of parenting books: books about child development, books about child health, books about how to get your child to sleep through the night, books about why you shouldn't even try to get your child to sleep through the night. Eventually I stopped reading parenting books, first, because I realized that they were just making me anxious and second, because there are way more interesting things to read.
But ignoring the instruction manual has its cost. Sometimes it seems that every single mom but me knows exactly what she's supposed to do. It would have helped twenty years ago, for example, had I read the chapter stating that children are required to bring valentines to preschool for the other (resolutely pre-literate) 2-year-olds. Flubbed that one. I also failed to take the mandatory series of first-day-of-school pictures, wherein your child, proving herself to be taller than she'd been the previous year, stands grinning on the front porch, proudly modeling her new backpack. Oops.
22.5 years later, I am still screwing up the details. The latest chapter of my parental incompetence involves my life as the parent of a teenage musician.
My younger kid is a clarinetist, and in recent years she's gotten pretty serious about the whole thing. Parenting by instinct, as I generally have, I've found her some wonderful teachers and challenging youth music ensembles. I've ponied up for a decent clarinet (thankfully, only a small percentage of the cost of a decent violin). She has reeds a-plenty, and a good reed case, and reed humidifiers for the dry winter months; she has not one but two folding music stands, and a big bag of clothespins to hold her music in place on windy days at orchestra camp.
That is all very well and good. But had I read the proper chapter in Nurturing Your Budding Musician, here's what I would have procured: video recording apparatus.
This Sunday my daughter played in a chamber music recital. I had to deliver her to downtown Boston at 8:00 am--so I must admit I was feeling pretty self-congratulatory about my ratings on the Supportive Parent Meter. But the smugness was not to last. The parents in the know -- the ones who had both read and followed the operating instructions -- were ready not only to listen, but to capture the whole event for posterity. Here's the A-list setup:
Note the tripod in the center aisle: the picture will be steady, unobstructed, every moment and every movement captured flawlessly. Twenty years from now, this kid will watch this video, and he'll know that the steadiness of the shot represents his mother's unwavering love.
The B-level parents at least jockey their way into an unobstructed position for their iPhone videos:
Note the arm supported by the chair: this is proper parent-videographer form, at least for those sad souls who have neglected the tripod imperative. These kids will watch these videos someday as well, and will know that their parents love them, only maybe not quite as much as the kid whose mom had a tripod.
I, alas, was far less enterprising. I did manage sufficient charge for my iPhone to make it through the 18-minute piece. But visually, the best I could manage was to lean sideways so that my view was not 100% obstructed by the guy in front of me. My video featured such fine bits of camera work as this:
(Yes, it IS supposed to sound like that: it's Schoenberg. The kids, by the way, kicked its ass.)
Note the prominence of the right shoulder of the gentleman in the purple shirt. It wasn't so obtrusive when I started -- his presence is part of the overall composition of the shot, allowing the viewer to experience what it was like to be there, in the audience, just as I was:
By the end of the piece, Purple Shirt Guy takes on a more of a starring role:
Once again, I have been done in by lack of parenting know-how. Sorry, kids.
But on the brighter side: I can assure you that every single one of my 22-year-old daughter's classmates in the engineering program at Washington University in St. Louis received a valentine this February. Damned if I'll make THAT mistake twice!