Just something I’ve been dealing with and thinking about lately…
I know at this point in your life, you haven’t made any commitments, but one day I want you to understand how strongly your Dad and I look at commitments. The definition of commitment is “the state of being dedicated to a cause; and engagement that restricts freedom of action.” I assume that when you read this I will still be teaching choir (hopefully in a middle school), but who knows… I could get tired of dealing with commitment issues and choose another career path. Being a choir teacher gives me a different outlook on commitment. I feel like I’m constantly begging kids to commit to something. “Be a part of the choir! Please come to the concert! Please wear the right clothes! Please sing out more! You committed to this class back in August and you signed a contract saying that you would be at this concert! Don’t give up on me now!” If I ever seem a little frustrated after a day at work, it’s most likely not you that I’m irritated with. I’m most likely tired of trying to win kids over. I’m tired of trying to get them in my class. I’m tired of trying to motivate them to do something just for the fun and excitement of it rather than doing it out of the fear of getting a bad grade. I cannot tell you how many times in a year I hear… “is this for a grade?” “what happens if I don’t show up to the concert?” “Do I HAVE to be there? Or is this like… an optional thing?” I want to sit down with them and say… “Look, you’ve been working on this stuff since August. Does that not make you feel like you’ve wasted all this time if you don’t go to the concert? What was the point of all that work?” I’ve even gone so far as to say things like, “If you don’t show up to the concert, that would be like skipping on end-of-year tests or going to all the practices for your sport and then not showing up for the game. What is the point of class if you’re not going to show up for the concert? If you abandon your teammate on a football field, the WHOLE team suffers. It’s the same with choir! If I’m missing 4 altos on the night of the concert, the choir simply will not sound as good as it could.”
Dearest Selah… to be quite frank. I am sick and tired of having to compare choir (or any other art for that matter) to a sport in order for it to get the respect it deserves. I’m going to stop myself there because that’s a different letter for a different day. Here is the point that I am trying to make… In your life, when you make a commitment to something… HOLD THAT COMMITMENT. I don’t care what it is that you’ve committed to. If you’ve promised to meet someone for lunch, do it. If you’ve said you’ll be there at soccer practice, do it. If you’ve said you were going to help someone out with homework, do it. For the first 18 years of your life, my dear, you will not have a choice. Your Dad and I will be making that decision for you. You can be mad at that (and I’m sure at some point in your life you will), but I think it is going to teach you a valuable lesson; a lesson that my parents taught me and I am so grateful for that.
Academics come first. If you are in a class and there is a test, field trip, choir competition, science fair, etc… you WILL complete it. I don’t care if the choir concert is the night of your best friend’s 16th birthday. You are not going to that party until AFTER the concert. (Also, side note… what are you doing have a best friend who isn’t in choir???) I don’t care if the basketball championship game is the same night of the science fair that you entered in months before you tried out for the basketball team… you WILL compete in the science fair and then I will do my best to rush you over to the game. I was an athlete in high school. I get it. I loved having sports as an outlet, but what my parents taught me was academics came before extracurriculars. Always.
Church comes before academics. I know, I know. I said academics come first. My brain was tired, it’s Friday. If it’s Sunday, we’re at church. If it’s Wednesday night, we are at church. Even if your Dad wasn’t a music minister… we would be there. You would be going to youth choir, Bible study, Sunday school, etc… This isn’t a choice. It wasn’t a choice for me for 18 years and I loved it. I loved going to church. The minute I started struggling with church was the first Sunday I chose not to go in college. Some parents may not like the fact that I force you to go to these things, but as my parents told me… They’re not your parents. I am. If you decide to play sports or be a part of a club or band in school and they have practice/rehearsal/meetings on a Wednesday night or Sunday afternoon, you will just have to miss it. I won’t apologize for that.
I understand that there are always circumstances beyond your control. I understand that last minute emergencies happen. I understand that sometimes people get sick. I understand that some days… you will just have a poopy day. You won’t feel like coming home from school and then leaving again to go to church on Wednesday night. You won’t feel like going to soccer practice when it’s 40 degrees outside and raining. You won’t feel like spending an hour running around a gym after you’ve been up since 6am in a classroom doing work. You won’t feel like spending an hour in a choir rehearsal and then coming back that night in a nice dress and standing up in front of people to do it again. I get it. Everyone has their days, but as long as you are healthy… you will be there. You wanna know why? Because you SAID you would. If you join WHATEVER club or extracurricular activity, you will do it knowing that if it conflicts with church, you’ll miss it that day. If it conflicts with an academic event, you’ll miss it that day. You will join knowing that if your grades start to slip and your performance in school is falling, you will quit.
Your commitment to things is good practice for your commitment to relationships. Will you always be there for your best friend? Will you always support your significant other? Or… will you, the moment its tough, back out and say, “Do I have to do this?” and I hope I will always be there in your head asking, “Did you say you would be?”
Here’s the deal, my girl… I came home tired today. I drove home thinking about how frustrating it is to listen to students say, “I can’t go to this because I have (insert sports event here) that night.” I drove home thinking about how I wanted a student to do something simply BECAUSE they committed and they cared… not because they were going to get a bad grade. I drove home thinking about how I didn’t want my child to be like that to her teachers. I drove home thinking about how I wanted you to understand how much teachers and other adults who lead students commit to those students’ lives and how disheartening it is to hear students say that they basically don’t care. I came home thinking about how I wanted you to be a student and eventually an adult who commits to things…who gives their word and people believe them. I want you to be a person who other people trust when they commit to something. I want you to be dependable. I want you to be honest. I want you to be dedicated. And if I have to make you mad along the way, I’ll do that for you.