When my son was young I wanted to introduce him to music. We first tried the clarinet. I tried to remove my tendency to throw myself into any activity in search of mastery from the practice by having our babysitter take our son to lessons and supervise practice. Our son learned to play a few notes and had some fun with the clarinet, but it didn’t take. He then tried the piano and that didn’t take either.
My son kept declaring that he wanted to play the violin. I was a bit pleased with his decision, but hesitant. I know that teaching my son the instrument that I play and teach would be intense. I wanted the time with him, but was wary of how I might have ego about how he might play. We have stuck with it and it is intense. It is difficult not to make every practice session a lesson. But ego isn’t part of the practice. The way he plays is not a reflection of me, it is a reflection of his study. He doesn’t play like me. He plays like he plays. The more techniques I manage to expose him to, the more I learn. (Not necessarily about music.)
So, our time practicing together is intense. It is intense in the way that I am intense when I am communicating about something I care about. Our time with the violin practice is intense. But the time spent together is wonderful. I look forward to it. Our son doesn’t want to practice without me.
My husband loves baseball. When our son throws the baseball with his father, they are connected. They love throwing the ball together. Their time together with baseball is joyful and spirited and intense.
What does it mean to be intense? Intensity is having full attention. It is being in the moment. It is listening and hearing and playing with spirit. It is earnestly doing something we care about with full concentration. Intensity should not necessarily be avoided.
At some point, a parent with an intense relationship with a child expressed in doing an activity may begin to wonder if they are too invested in the relationship to be objective or perhaps they don’t feel they have the skills to lead their child to the next level. At this point, integration of a third party — a coach or teacher who shares the interest but has perspective is perhaps a good idea.
Teaching a child the thrill of throwing oneself earnestly and wholeheartedly into a practice is worthwhile. It may be that the thing we manage to inspire our children to study at first isn’t what winds up being their passion. A young child may be more apt to be interested in the things their parents are. This can change, and that’s okay. But the development of the mindset to intensely and wholeheartedly study and explore is worthwhile.