A few months back I was sitting in the living room of my childhood home observing a scene that has become quite normal to me. My 5-year-old niece was pulling out her fiddle to join her aunts and uncles in playing Away In A Manger (it was a few weeks before Christmas). Five fiddles, a cello, a guitar, a piano, a bass, and the adorable voices of my nine nieces and nephews rounded out the ensemble in the more-than-full living room.

Family dinners have grown exponentially over the last seven years as a result of marriages and babies. Yes, for the majority of my life, family dinners have been larger than average. Two parents and 10 kids make for a full house, but four inlaws and 10 grandchildren make for an even fuller house!

Even though playing music as a family has been a part of my life since I can remember, seeing the next generation join in sent me into a rather sentimental and nostalgic frame of mind.

I loved it.

As I sat there enjoying this beautiful scene, I reflected on something that mommy used to frequently say when us kids wouldn’t want to practice. The dialogue would go something like this.

Mommy: Did you get your practice in today?

Me: Ah! No. I totally forgot. It’s alright though cuz I had a great practice session yesterday and I can do an extra 10 minutes tomorrow…

Mommy: You know that’s not how it works. You brush your teeth everyday, I know you can practice your instrument everyday.

Every time mommy would compare practicing music to brushing teeth, all my arguments became far less convincing. It made me realize it wasn’t a big deal to grab my fiddle, set the timer for 20 minutes, and start practicing.

It was a simple chore.

Like folding laundry, cleaning my room, or, well, brushing my teeth.

Many people have misconceptions about how my siblings and I viewed music in our younger years. They assume since we love music now we must have loved every second of practice as kids. That is simply not true. Sure, some of us enjoyed it more than others, but to think that I, as a 10-year-old, looked forward to practice everyday is comical. I wanted to sleep in, eat skittles for breakfast, make forts in the woods for six hours a day, and unwind by watching three movies with a pint of ice cream in my lap.

That was my vision for life.

Thankfully my parents didn’t catch that vision.

Come to find out, my parents were smarter than me. They knew what I wanted more than I did. They knew I wanted to be a responsible adult, loving husband, and capable father. And they knew I would want healthy teeth.

I am so grateful that my parents didn’t say something like:

“Maybe he’s not cut out to play music.”

or

“He doesn’t seem to be musically inclined.”

or

“We shouldn’t make him do something he doesn’t want to do.”

I don’t think my parents could have cared less about whether or not I received accolades as a musician.

It wasn’t a matter of whether or not I was gifted or not gifted, elite or amateur. The value was in the discipline acquired by doing something day-in and day-out even when I didn’t always see the bigger picture.

Now, when I sit back and enjoy playing music with my siblings, I realize how easily this could have not happened. As grown adults we get to reap the benefits of my mommy saying with confidence, “I know you can get your practice in today. It won’t kill you.” It would have been easier for her to just buckle on this issue. However, I am grateful she loved us enough to make us follow-through in the things we wanted to quit.