Thursday, June 5, 2008

Yeah well, my daughter plays the Cello

My daughter plays the cello.

Yes, she does. Has been for…. days now. Almost a full week.

I’m obsessing slightly about her cello, but not in her presence. I don’t want my desire for her to take stunningly to the cello to rub off on her. I'm not asking for a prodigy here. I have enough pressure as it is. No, I just want her to do decently well, to enjoy it, to have some talent for it, and most of all, I want her to want to continue doing it. Why?

Because she’s a fringe kid. Fringe kids are rare, and just... a few beats off, a bit too quirky for even the quirky. The world isn’t seen through the same lens, and they may be a little too loud, or a little too quiet. They exist and the world exists and sometimes the two, them and the world, collide, and mom gets a phone call from the school.

Fringe kids. Outside the system. Beyond reach of parental logic. Flying up somewhere in the clouds til they crash. It was probably a group of Fringes that settled the Old West. Or colonized America for that matter. Fringe has its place. Just not in organized society.

And she’s so very fringe.

She’s beautiful and clever and bright and artistic, but she doesn’t have the formula for popular, nor the mom who can help her be popular. (Another topic in itself).

She doesn’t have a sport. A gal-pal club. A hobby. She just has her quirky, off-beat, often misunderstood, and usually miscued behaviors. She has her temper. Her rages. Her internal frustration pounding against her skin until it explodes in a cacophony of words that have passed her lips before she can bring them back in. She has her sweetness, her need for hugs and the need to be reassured that Mom still loves her despite the rages, the temper, the poor grades, the missed homework and lost notes. And yes while all kids go through this occasionally, Fringe kids live it daily.

And fringe kids don’t have fringe parents as a rule. The quintessential soccer mom may have to turn in the mini van and give up serving kool-aid at the games if she has a fringe kid. They just don’t run with the crowd and simply break down into piles of mushy messy goo if you force them. Not that I ever tried... okay, maybe a few times...

Fringe kids work on a more complicated, frustrating level. Fringe kids are not destined for brilliance. They are destined to walk the finer line between brilliance and insanity. To forever be on the cusp of genius and insanity, lingering for maddeningly long periods of time in chaos and confusion, and despair, the thing we hope our children never know, is just another familiar hang-out where Fringe kids seem to spend their adolescent years.

She sings, well. So well that she’ll be in choir, and if she loves it enough, sure, I’ll do voice lessons. She writes her own songs, and they are GOOD. She sang one catchy country tune to me and I asked who’s it was. “Mine.” See? But they don’t teach that in 6th grade and the other kids aren’t ‘into’ the girl who sits by the tree and sings songs all alone (doubt me? My parent teacher conference in kindergarten was about her habit of running to the bathroom to belt out tunes.) And it’s not for lack of exposure, we’ve done the full gamut: ballet, martial arts, gymnastics… none of them took.

So why obsess about the cello? Why am I so keen for her to play it, and like it enough to last through high school?

It’s a selfish reason. Fringe parents are by nature solitary, wary creatures. We know how parent-talk goes, and frankly, we can’t compete with our fringe kid. The only way we can respond to other childrens’ resumes is with a defensive posture and ‘she’s doing well….’ or ‘she wasn’t late to school once this week’ or 'she made a dress from paper clips.'

But the Cello! Well! That's the sort of instrument a Fringe kid could take to. It's musical. It's artsy. It's nifty looking. It's hard to play badly. What's more, she likes the look of it. She likes to hold it. She likes how shiny it is. It's a REAL interest! And I hone in on every one her interests. I have to. She's fringe. Interests are far and few between, but once found, are obsessively pursued.

So, I want her to like the cello. And when we’re sitting at some school function, and you turn to me, the parent not talking to any of the other parents – it doesn’t take long before the other parents figure out your child is Fringe – and you tell me your daughter has been doing soccer since the womb, and your son is Track All Star and valedictorian, and your sensitive preschooler is delicately being introduced to the harsh realities of other children because he’s too brilliant to be touched, and your friend’s quadruplets have their own dance team, I have one weapon to wield, one pleasant thing to say that will shut down all further discussion.

I can say, with a polite smile, that my daughter plays the cello. And isn’t that just great?


RainyPM said...

Awww, this makes me want to give her a great big hug! She looks so perfect there, I hope she sticks with it.

Sanya said...

Hey, waitjustadarnminute, I was a fringe kid, and... um... I agree with everything you said and sniffled too.