Another Thing My Children Had to Teach Me

"It's Only 5 Minutes!"We do Suzuki music here at chez Sarah. My 8yo is cruising through the Suzuki repertoire on the cello, and his 6yo brother plays the violin. 

One child, who shall remain nameless, was less willing to practice than the other. It wasn't really bad. Whenever I convinced him to practice, he enjoyed it. But the getting going was always a problem. "I'm busy right now" was the usual objection. 

This past fall, when we'd reached our one year anniversary as Suzuki-ites, I imposed a 100 Days of Practice on my children. "We're going to practice 100 days in a row," I told them. "But you only have to spend five minutes on it." I found some charts on the internet, with 100 blank squares. I bought 200 sparkley star stickers. 

After the first week, I was sure it was all a big mistake. The first moment which seemed workable for practice was always right while I was trying to make dinner. It's hard to listen to someone's D Arpeggio without burning the broccoli. The first few stars looked awfully lonely on their page.

But something happened after twenty days or so. Practice became (as I had hoped it would) a regular part of the day. It became like brushing teeth--inevitable, so why fight it?

The 100 days ended on December 10th, and by then both children had made major strides. My younger son learned music which I couldn't have imagined him playing last summer. And my older one played through most of book two within that time period. The biggest boon was the lack of discussion. I had trained all of us to accommodate practice as part of our day. And it worked.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I had another frustrating year trying to write fiction. I made good strides, actually, but not without the doubt and self-loathing that always accompanies work on a novel. I spent a lot of time thinking about writing, and not quite enough time writing. Then, in November, when my children were more than 1/2 way through their Suzuki blitz, I decided to do 30 days of fiction. Every day of November (except for Thanksgiving) I worked on my new book. 

Guess what? I saw results. Not only did I add more than 10,000 words during November, I felt better about the manuscript. The steady progress, slow as it was, was enough to swing my opinion about the work. Even on days when I didn't spend more than an hour on it, I still got a lift from having sat down to try.

Thanks, kids! I owe you one.