Art Vent Letting the Fresh Air In
Photo: Rachel Short
Thanks to DJs Mike B. & Adam Freeland for turning us all into dancing fools.
I can also tell you that their father and I brought two sons into functioning adulthood without any of that crap—and it’s something they’ve continually thanked us for.
Although Matt's the music professional, my most vivid early memories of my children and music have to do with his younger brother, Adam, probably because of the dark winter when Adam was two and had pneumonia, which meant long weeks inside with just mom and the stereo. He spent hours dancing to the Beatles in front of the speakers, identifying which side of the album he wanted to hear by pointing to the cut or whole apple illustrated on the label. Among his other favorites were Bob Marley's “I shot the sheriff but I didn’t shoot the dead tree” and Paul McCartney’s “Man on the Rug." I remember trying to tear him away from Elton John’s "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" when we were late for a doctor appointment, by promising that we’d listen to the radio in the car. He was screaming “Yellow Brick Road! Yellow Brick Road!” as I carried him out and once in the car, insisted on hearing it there. I tried to explain that the radio played what it wanted, not what we wanted, but lost all credibility when I turned it on to find it playing—of course—“Yellow Brick Road.”
This all comes to mind as I’ve recently been spending much delightful time with various friends’ toddlers, loving the way 1-4 year olds are so trustingly imitative while remaining true to their emerging personalities—a combination that’s often hilarious. Then this morning Cary Smith sent me the link to this video of Thom Yorke singing the Radiohead classic “Weird Fishes” with orchestra (wait for the sound to start)…
…after which I found this, and it cracks me up:
Don't skip over the song links to the music videos above, each one better than the next, ending with Elton John accompanied by Muppets, the Sesame Street album being a big exception to my rule—because I enjoyed it. Happy parents, I always think, make for happy children. And why not give them something that enriches not only their present, but future life?
In our rush to control our children’s experience, we forget that people sometimes learn most from attempting to do those things for which they’re not naturally gifted.
As a child, my most obvious talents were musical, and although I studied classical piano for 20 years, I turned out to be an artist—no doubt because, not in spite of, of the challenges art continues to present.
I don’t practice yoga because I’m naturally flexible, but because I’m not.
In Lawrence Wechsler’s biography of Robert Irwin, Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees, Irwin says:
In my years…as a teacher, I’ve seen it over and over again. It’s the kids with the greatest facility who can run up against the biggest problems. You are the best in your class without even trying, which is the best way to learn nothing…The not-so-facile kid just plugs along, every step is a working step, and he comes to the twentieth step and it’s just another step. But facility is a funny thing—it takes you way up, you soar, and you look like you’re really doing something—but at a certain point you go as far as you can with facility, and then you hit the big questions. And for you, who’ve never been pressed, that can present a huge roadblock. I’ve seen a lot of kids get waylaid at this point…
I’m convinced children are best served when the quality of their effort is applauded, rather than their success. ("The process is the reality," as Samuel Johnson said.) And because there’s a Times article to back up every opinion, here’s Praise Children for Effort, Not Intelligence, Study Says, from 1998.