Cast you mind back to the summer of 1990. The Three Tenors were about to be unleashed on the world, Joey Essex was born, and – as you know – Latvia declared independence from the European Union (God bless Wikipedia). Also that year: in a little room in my parents’ house, I played the piano for the very first time.
I don’t really have a very clear memory of my first music lessons. I can certainly remember the feeling of not having practised, and of blagging my way through yet another lesson by trying to talk to my teacher about anything other than the pieces I was meant to be playing. But those early years are a bit of a blur.
It’s not always that simple, however. Whilst I didn’t particularly complain about giving music a go, I remember my little brother having to be dragged across the garden to his first football session, at the age of five. He was kicking, screaming and saying he’d hate it; a few decades later, he now writes about football for a living and feels very thankful that our dad forced him out of the house, threatening a punishment of no Thomas the Tank Engine for a week if he didn’t at least give it a go.
Tomorrow, in yet another experience of life feeling like it’s gone full circle, it’ll be time for another lesson – but this time, I’m doing the coercing and my children are doing the learning. The reason: my two eldest are both going to their first music group, where they’ll have the opportunity to try out a range of different instruments. Clearly, on one level I don’t want to be at all pushy. On another, however, I’VE ALREADY DECIDED THAT AT LEAST ONE OF THEM WILL PLAY THE CELLO, AND THE OTHER WILL HOPEFULLY PLAY THE OBOE.
As a parent, no matter how hard you try, it’s almost impossible to avoid foisting your own experiences onto your children. If you were fortunate enough to study music, you catch yourself imagining your own offspring in the National Youth Orchestra; if you’re sporty, you entertain the dream of seeing your son or daughter walking out onto the pitch at Wembley. I hope I don’t turn into a pushy parent; at the same time, I know that if I’m laissez-faire about the whole thing, my children almost certainly won’t make the effort themselves – and they could be deprived of some great opportunities as a result.
It’s that eternal question: as mums and dads, where exactly should we sit on the spectrum between simply putting our kids in front of the telly every evening, and behaving like a mad Tiger Mother (or Father) at all times?
For the time being, I’m going to aim straight down the middle – but clearly, if my children don’t embrace music, at least one of them will definitely be taking home a gold at the 2028 Olympics.