Finding excuses for musical procrastination

Finding excuses for musical procrastination

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My children are excellent musicians. OK, so I’m a little biased because I love music, I’m kind of fond of them, too, and I have worked with them on their developing skills.

What they’re even better at than playing music, however, is finding ways not to play it. Well, I mean, ways not to play their instruments. They’re perfectly content to play all kinds of music including, to my surprise, country music. Many of my daughter’s adolescent friends are also fond of this genre which, on the Eastern Seaboard, seems about as typical as a 65-degree, mid-December day. Is global warming moving country music north?

Anyway, my children have developed ways to put off practicing. There’s the hunger excuse: “No, no, seriously, Dad, if you could feel inside my stomach, you’d know I’m starving.”

When the food arrives, they are far too busy laughing out loud to notice.

“I am hungry, it’s just that I had to send this text message now. It’s urgent.”

When I take the phones away, they insist someone will be stranded in the metaphorical frozen bus station in Alaska, with polar bears closing in and their friend’s only defense is a text message that will send a tone that terrifies bears.

Back to music, or not. So, now that we’re five years into their music education, their procrastination playbook includes headaches, cold sores and tired eyes that can’t possibly read such small notes. Crying “wolf” too many times, when I’ve seen them bouncing around the house after their headaches rendered them unable to practice, has made me less inclined to believe them.

But, then, last week, my son picked up his instrument and, within seconds, had developed a serious case of the hiccups. One of the many genetic gifts from my father are these hiccups that cause fish to change directions in nearby tanks, birds to fly from their trees and heads to swivel in the direction of that sudden violent, two-toned sound. Even when they were in my wife’s uterus, our children caused her stomach to jump, as if they were miniature maracas.

Before he could play a note, my son increased the tempo of his hiccups, generating a violent and explosive noise. While I was annoyed that he wasn’t playing when he promised to practice, I admit that I was impressed that I was outmaneuvered by an adolescent, hiccuping diaphragm.

A friend has this technique where she drinks from the opposite side of a glass while holding her nose. I’ve seen it work before, but I’m not sure I’d want to try it with my son without an EMT present. I had him try my method, which involves holding his breath for as long as he can, taking a small breath and then repeating the process. I figure it’s a way of starving the diaphragm of air until it goes back to its usual job. He gamely tried, but it didn’t work. I even scared him by telling him about all the standardized tests coming in the next several years. That was similarly ineffective.

When I gave up, I saw a small Mona Lisa-type grin on the corners of his mouth which formed as he pulled his unused instrument apart and put it back in its case. I wondered how, if he had so much control over his diaphragm, he might use that power constructively? Then I remembered the American military blasts unpalatable music to force drug dealers and foreign leaders out of their homes. Maybe instead of pop music making these dictators wilt, the military could blast the sound of violent hiccups. “OK, guys nothing’s working, let’s bring in the diaphragm.”