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Some of my stories are published in:
A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters (Adams Media, 2009)
Chicken Soup: What I Learned from the Dog (2009)
Love is a Flame (Bethany House, 2010)
Extraordinary answers to Prayer (Guideposts, 2010)
Love is a Verb (Bethany House, 2011)
Big Dreams from Small Spaces (Group Publishing, 2012)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spread Too Thin

I'm a participating music instructor in my community's area music teacher's association. Last week we conducted our annual recital. Kids - and some adults - performed. In general, the young musicians played (or sang) well.
I prefer that their teachers would have required them to memorize their music. (You generally play with greater accuracy if your eyes are not swiveling between the music and your instrument. I could on and on about the various merits of playing by memory, but that' s not the purpose of this post.)
Two students - a brother and sister - came in late. That same day they'd also been participating in a sports event.
They each read their music. Nothing was memorized. Neither was sufficiently prepared. Each performance was marred by inaccurate rhythms, wrong notes. hesitations, inconsistent tempos, terrible pedalling, and long pauses in which the performer turned the music over for the last few pages of music. (Another reason why it's best to memorize music.)
I'm surprised that the teacher allowed them to play, unprepared as each was for performance.
I happen to know the parents of the two siblings. They're fine people. Unfortunately they subscribe to that modern philosophy of child-rearing: expose your child to EVERYTHING; make sure their every waking moment is filled with entertainment and activity. (Heaven forbid that the child should have a moment of down-time - sandwiched in between his frenetic schedule - for writing in a journal, or quiet reading, or imaginative day-dreaming. . . or prayer.)
The brother and sister who played are bright and lovely kids. But I know that their schedules are so filled with sports and other extracurricular activities that there is scant time for proper preparation. . . for anything.
So, they can do a lot of things.
But none well.
Doubtless, the two will go on to high school and college, choosing some field that will lead them to a nice career in some field that is neither artistic or athletic.
They won't be able to say to their kids, "I won first place in my community's piano competition," or, "I went on to State competitions for track and field."
Because they were spread so thin they didn't have time to get good at either piano or track and field or the myriad other activities that fill their days.
It's like a piano student a few years ago who told me that he just wanted to "kind of" play the piano. He didn't want to get "really good" at it. I know what he was saying: he didn't want to spend the time required for excellence.
Parents, help your child commit to working hard at one (maybe two) skills. Then, when he or she achieves childhood excellence, they'll know the time and devotion required to be excellent in their future career, their parenting, their volunteerism. . . and especially, their service to Christ.

Proverbs 22:29 "Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings. He will not serve before obscure men."


  1. I've noticed the same thing, this pressure to have our kids involved in every activity all the time. Over the past few years we've slowed down considerably, and at times I feel guilty that I haven't given my boys enough "exposure" to these different things. But then I watch the frantic families around me and realize that perhaps I'm teaching them a better lesson. They might not know how to excel in every sport and hobby, but maybe they'll be the kind of fathers who love to come home to a simple night with their wives and children someday.

  2. Yes, Yes, Yes, Michele. And maybe they'll excell in one thing instead of being mediocre in lots of things. I'm so glad I stuck with my music and gave it way more than the ten thousand hours Malcolm Gladwell says we need to become proficient.

  3. It has always been a heart breaker to me when I see this happening to children. They are not given time to just "be", they are too busy doing. Many times you can see it in their faces, they are plainly worn out.
    I think some parents push their children to be involved in so many activites so that they can brag about how talented their children are.
    I so agree with what you say about having them work hard at one or two skills.

  4. Diane, I didn't mention the "brag" factor, but I think that's a big part of it, too. Thanks for your astute comment.