Ideas for Family Time and Events
Two Christmases past, I started a new tradition. I request a song from all my grands present at our Christmas Eve Tea. They play a piece for me on whatever instrument, usually piano. Five of my boycubs take piano lessons. Last year that tradition included their parents. We had such an amazing time singing along with a lot of laughter when either player or singers messed up. Eyes sparkled and grins were infectious. No one cared when unplanned notes popped into the performance.
My son-in-law started taking piano as an adult. He’s already a professional drummer, but wanted to learn piano. We enjoyed everything from Jingle Bells to Silent Night while performers switched out each song. We applauded and cheered loudly even for the simplest of made up songs pounded out by a toddler who hadn’t yet started his lessons. He told us Up On the Rooftop and switched halfway through to another Christmas song. We switched right with along him. His daddy didn’t play piano.
Mancub2 performed a Christmas present “rap” he’d written that had us all in stitches. He wrote it as part of the explanation for a gift he gave to his brother-in-law. He had us all singing the jingle refrain! The family entertainment was one of our favorite parts of the holiday.
Music appreciation, like reading, starts early. Understanding the language of music adds to math and foreign language skills. I teach 3 boycubs piano lessons once a week. The littlest one gets 5-10 min. Depends on his attention span. Sometimes we do a simple plucking on my harp instead of piano to keep a preschooler engaged. He knows the notes on piano and harp for Baa Baa Black Sheep. He knows C is a red string and F is a blue string. Then he can point out the other notes between the colored strings. Pretty special to me. Boycub6 thinks my harp is really cool, especially when it lights up.
Not being a professional piano teacher and just a beginning harpist, it’s great one-on-one grandparent/grandchild time.This year I’m joining in to play a piece on my new Celtic harp. I started practicing simple Christmas music already. Since I’m only a few months into online lessons, it’s going to take me a bit. I want to do my part and show I’m not afraid to perform what I’ve learned either.
It’s not about how good we are. It’s about sharing in a family recital and making others smile. Besides entertainment, togetherness, and a reason to keep practicing music, we gain confidence (and teach confidence to children by example) when others enjoy our offerings.
One of the best things now about our family Christmas time together is the old-fashioned sing along with performers at any stage of expertise, or in my case lack of it.
What made me think of this plan? My family did family performances when I was growing up because my grandpa was born in 1883. That was normal for him so it was normal to me. Entertainment wasn’t so complicated or available as it is now. My grandma played a little pedal organ until she gave it up for space as the family grew so large or we kids drove her nuts pounding it to pieces. I’m not really sure which—at least I’m not admitting anything. Grandpa played harmonica, sang, and recited poetry he’d written. I sang and clapped along. One thing missing from our family lives in modern times—the family getting together in simple ways that enhance communication and support. Focus on a beautiful relationship building tools that will outlast the current crisis and create positive memories of family and childhood through old-fashioned connectedness.
A tip: Engage elderly relatives via any form of video messaging. Here’s where modern technology is worth the effort. If people can’t get together in person, try to include them in a way they can respond in real time. You’ll be amazed at how much joy a grandparent, great grandparent, or relative at a distance gets when they can share the moment. At the very least, try to record a few minutes for them. They’ll want to see it. But if it’s possible, connect live so joy is common in the moment.
What kind of old-fashioned, simple family tradition would you like to start? I think you’ll be surprised that people will join in when one or two kick it off or show off. Either way, they’re in! The event becomes sharing. Don’t wait until Christmas. Create family events any time for any reason.
Another tip or two: Be sure to give parents a heads up so they’ll support the idea and help their children practice something to share. No one plays an instrument? Try a family evening of Karaoke or board games or… use your imagination. I’d love some more ideas!
(c) 2020 Angela Breidenbach