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The Mozart Effect or Parenting Fail?

Music, like all of culture, helps us to understand our environment, each other, and ourselves. Culture helps us to imagine a better future. Culture helps turn “them” into “us.” And these things have never been more important.

-Yo-Yo Ma

I love all music flavors, but classical has a special place in my heart. I listened to so much during my 15 years of dance training. Check out Beethoven and the rest of the Classical playlist at the bottom of the page.

When I was in elementary school, people were experimenting with the idea that if you listened to classical music during a test you would score higher. Not for all of us. When I heard Mozart during pre-algebra exams, I was supposed to focus all my extra brainpower towards solving math problems. Instead, math immediately went out the window and was replaced by visions of choreography I was dreaming into existence. It brought to mind the sunlit, wood-floored dance studio, the smell of rosin, pink satin pointe shoes, and lambswool. Every sense was diverted to very familiar and happy thoughts.

The “Mozart Effect”, a similar concept many of us scrambled to integrate into our baby’s days may not have been completely valid, or at least not in the way the public understood. Please refer to this article by the BBC. I filled every opportunity in my oldest son’s day with Mozart and other classical composers. Every car trip to the grocery store or play date in the backyard, he listened to Mozart. He did not appreciate it.

At age 2, the Backstreet Boys made him really happy, grinning ear to ear, and tapping his little foot to the beat. Particularly, “I Want It That Way.” Of course.

We had a university very close to where we lived. I thought enrolling him in music lessons offered for 2-year-olds would be a hands-on/participatory approach for us to learn together. He spent every minute twisting the doorknob trying to escape the room. I wish I had a picture for you.

I related this story recently to my therapist. I was proud of the fact that I worked hard to expose my boys to diverse experiences. Not just soccer, although I was a soccer mom for 13 consecutive years. I made sure they tried activities like gymnastics, guitar lessons, painting, cooking, scouts, crew, and computer coding in addition to attending plays. live music or simply library day. She said I should apologize to them for trying to guide them into what I wanted them to be. I responded that my motive was really the opposite. I wanted them to have the chance to discover something that inspired them. They are unique individuals and I might not know anything about what brings them joy.

Fast forward many years later. That same son, desperate to be released from Mozart jail, recently graduated from UGA with 3 degrees simultaneously, with honors, and worked in our State Congress. I’ve watched my kind and intelligent son follow his passions. So, thank you, Backstreet Boys! I also believe it is the accumulated experiences of each of my sons that helped shape them into the young men they are today.

And, I’m looking for a new therapist.

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