An Orchestra, A Bad Boy, And Other Quick Takes



It was a late night last night. I took the older three kids to the University Philharmonic concert. This is the orchestra I was a member of when I was in school, and being back in that gorgeous old theater, watching the same conductor who directed me, was very bittersweet. I got to thinking about a high school classmate at our reunion last summer, who was talking about how much he missed high school, because it was the last chance he had to play football. And it occurred to me that that is how I feel about orchestra in college and grad school. There is nothing, not one part of my life, that I would willingly turn back time for–except playing in an orchestra. And this orchestra in particular. I adored our conductor. (Still do. He’s amazing.)


Even in college I was aware of how I felt about orchestra. I don’t remember ever wishing away the minutes during rehearsal. Other ensembles–definitely! But never orchestra. I always, always loved it. I remember when I was in grad school, we only played in one ensemble per semester–wind ensemble or orchestra–a marked difference from undergrad, where I did both every single semester for five years. I wanted to mix it up: one semester of each per year, but instead they assigned me to orchestra the first year and wind ensemble the second. I remember the spring of my first year of grad school, trying to soak every moment of the experience into my bones, knowing I would never have it again.

This is me playing Charles Griffes' Poem with the orchestra in 1997. I had to "miss" playing in this concert b/c I was the soloist.

This is me playing Charles Griffes’ Poem with the orchestra in 1997. I had to “miss” playing in this concert b/c I was the soloist.


Well, in any case, I took the kids last night. That grand old theater was beat-up when I played there. Now it’s been totally restored. I love attending events there. It is just gorgeous. The kids did really well, although I had to pull Nicholas onto my lap because it was the only way to contain him. You know how when you can’t get comfortable, you wiggle around trying out positions until you find one that works, and then you settle down? Yeah, not so much. I pretty much had Nicholas trying to find a comfortable spot for the entire length of the Tchaikovsky 4th Symphony.


However. I am not complaining, because it was a chance to spend some time cuddling Nicholas. His bad behavior has escalated monumentally since I last mentioned it, and the tension in the house was near the breaking point. I caught myself thinking (several times) this week, “I don’t LIKE that child!” Fortunately a few days ago I had a Spirit moment and decided to try giving him some concentrated time early in the day, before everything had a chance to go south. It worked wonders. We’ve played Connect 4, we took a bike ride to the park and had a picnic, and now we went to the concert and he sat on my lap for forty minutes.


To give you an idea of the Nicholas week: he was pulling his sister’s shirt off in the car. When we got home, he shoved his way forward in the van and sat down in Alex’s seat, making it hard for Alex to get out. Then he kicked Alex repeatedly. I know he likes to feel useful (and compliment himself on it: “That was so helpful, wasn’t it Mommy?”), so I tried to give him a little job while I was making dinner: put some plastic & tin in the recycle bag. He told me no. I knew he was acting out to get attention, and I didn’t want to reward him, so I held my temper and gave the job to Julianna instead. He wailed and screamed, so I gave him a plastic lid to put in and told him to wait until Julianna finished (because she’s very, very slow). He said he was going to go push her out of the way, and proceeded to do so.


I was considering that behavior modification program they advertise on the radio, until I realized I needed to give him attention of a better kind. Parenthood is the ultimate self-emptying, because you have to give what they need even and especially when you don’t feel like you want to.


Wow, this is getting epic in length. How about a cute traffic “cop” that showed up this week in the middle of the humongous construction zone SURROUNDING Alex’s school?

construction guy 0047 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about carpet beetles, Minecraft, Pong, and pirates

7 thoughts on “An Orchestra, A Bad Boy, And Other Quick Takes

  1. Hang in there. I had a child who behaved much like Nicholas. He’s now 21, finishing his last year of university and making plans for grad school. I can’t even be specific about what we did to address his behaviour but like you, we tried to give him the attention he needed.

  2. “Parenthood is the ultimate self-emptying, because you have to give what they need even and especially when you don’t feel like you want to.” Remember, though, you can’t give water from an empty well. And I love the sculpture.

  3. Danielle

    One of the mantras of the behavior program we use at Oakland is, “We give kids what they need not what they deserve.” We often find ourselves using parts of the program at our home. That being said, I feel like I have pretty crazy kids compared to some of our friends. I like to think it is their big personalities that will turn them into leaders someday.

  4. onecatholicmama

    Regarding your #4, that connected time with kids really does make a difference, doesn’t it? I think so many times, kids act out because they don’t feel like they get enough attention or whatever. I know my son does that because he tends to get “lost in the middle” a lot. The baby gets lots of attention and the older kids get lots (because we homeschool) but he is just sorta in that in between stage. So giving him focused attention does help a lot in his behavior.

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