Last week my eight year old son, Rylan, came home with this…
A Rather Ear-piercing Contraption Often Releasing a Discordant, Excruciating Racket. Otherwise known as a Recorder.
He has been in raptures over his new plaything and constantly walks around the house with it poking out between his lips, followed by ‘sound’ (and I use the term loosely) that is so painful it could be used by riot police, instead of tear gas, to beat large crowds into submission. However the smile on his face is priceless and well worth the associated pain.
We were told at the start of the year that all Grade 3 students would be receiving their recorder during first term. When this didn’t happen, I had hoped, rather guiltily, that the entire shipment of recorders had been involved in an incident that rendered them silent or useless – such as a small nuclear blast or exposure to a solvent strong enough to melt them back into little globs of cream coloured plastic.
But, my hopes were crushed when in the first week of term 2, Rylan raced over to me at the school playground, a mile wide smile on his sweet face, holding the object of worldwide-parental dislike, in his little, gnawed at the fingernails, hands.
“Mum!” he screeched, “look what we got today!”
I hadn’t seen him this excited since Easter Sunday.
“A recorder!” he beamed, “listen to this…” he said as he blew as hard as he could into the instrument.
And that was when it started…the sound that is pitched to divide the human brain straight down the middle.
I could feel my ear canals starting to collapse inside my head and developed an instant toothache.
“Ooooh, that’s fantastic, sweetie,” I replied, trying to sound enthusiastic, but probably not doing a very good job.
“And listen to this one…” he said and then continued to blast away. All the birds nesting in a nearby tree took flight and flapped for their lives.
And so it went on…and on…and on.
Most of the other mothers in the school yard had the same look of shock, disappointment and surprise on their faces. The initial deer in the headlights expression soon made way for drooping shoulders, hunched backs and dragging feet as each mother pondered the noise that would soon permeate her house for the remainder of the year. For the next eight months. For the next two hundred and forty days until Christmas day is once again upon us and our kids have new toys to play with.
The worst thing about the recorder, is that it never sounds any better, even after the kid has mastered it and is proficient in both reading and playing music. No one can make a recorder pleasant to listen to – it’s not soothing like panpipes, or stirring like Bagpipes, it’s not energising like a guitar or drum kit, it’s not beautiful like a violin. It doesn’t invoke any of the emotions or feelings usually associated with the beauty of music. It still sounds like a plastic instrument designed to hurt people. There is no light at the end of this tunnel.
And the worst, worst part is that Rylan is a perfectionist. He will plug away at something until he has mastered it completely. He taught himself to whistle like a lumberjack in less than a week. He designs and builds Lego jets that look as though NASA has made them. He even worked out how to land a simulated jet on an aircraft carrier on his IPod touch as though he had been trained by the RAAF.
So, you can see my conundrum – it’s a vicious cycle because Rylan will continue with it day and night until he is happy with the quality of his playing – of which there is no such thing for a perfectionist – not realising that no one, not even Louis Armstrong himself, could make the recorder sound appealing. It will never end.
So, what am I to do? Hide it? Squash it under my car tyre? Feed it to the dog? No, I need to suck it up like every other parent on the planet, like my parents did, and let Rylan enjoy his recorder, that’s what. It brings him so much happiness to blast us out of our seats and make our brains rattle in our heads, make the dogs whimper and hide, and fill the room with ‘mood music’ – which is a cross between a Yodeller and a howling wolf.
It could be so much worse, after all, there’s only another two siblings behind him, who in the years to come will also bring home a recorder. Ahhh, the serenity.