Tue10212014

Small details, big picture

“My A is flat,” I whispered. “It’s OK, no one can hear you,” my friend whispered back to me. We play violin in a local orchestra. We were in rehearsal and it was bothering me that my A string was flat, but I couldn’t tune it because we were in the middle of the first movement of Beethoven’s 5th symphony. Da, da, da, DAAA!

Waking up this morning in a groggy fog after a late night, all I could think about was going over the passages I had missed because I was so intently focused on my out-of-tune string. Over a cup of tea, I could hear the words my friend said to me. Once the caffeine kicked in, I realized that she was right. I wasn’t the soloist, and I wasn’t carrying the melody. Obsessing over being slightly out of tune distracted me from the goals of rehearsal – to learn from mistakes early and to make decisions as we go.

In my “Aha!” moment, I couldn’t help but apply that same principle to the sometimes heated discussions I have been hearing in coffeehouses and reading in emails and newspapers.

There has been much debate lately about math in the school district. Some parents want a more rigorous math curriculum because they believe it will enhance the quality of their children’s education. Other parents argue that the curriculum is fine the way it is and that it affords children a quality of life without added academic stress at an earlier age. There is evidence to support both sides.

There is also debate over stay-at-home working moms vs. career working moms. Some people argue that having a parent at home provides a life for the family that cannot be matched with two parents working outside the home. Others believe that career working moms are good role models for their children and offer more opportunities for independence. There is evidence to support both sides.

Obviously, one size does not fit all, and there are two sides to every coin. But obsessing over the details of the choices we make, if we have the luxury of choice, can sometimes prevent the big picture from coming into view.

It’s easy to get caught up in the details of the here and now and lose sight of what we want for our children in the end – to be happy and comfortable. But at the end of the day, when the dust has settled and everyone is just fine, are we going to look back and say, “I’m glad I spent countless hours arguing over when my child took geometry and defending my status with respect to being a mom”? Or are we going to wish we had spent those hours knowing that those details weren’t going to make or break the quality of our children’s lives as adults because we were focused on what was working for our families?

Preoccupied by the flat notes coming from under my left ear, I missed out on aspects of the rehearsal that could shape my performance in the concert. The quality of an orchestra is only as good as its musicians, the director and the repertoire. It was up to me to make adjustments, to the best of my ability, for my particular situation.

As far as I know, life is not a rehearsal. But I know that with or without my violin, I will do my best, learn from myself and from others, make adjustments and be happy with my decisions, even if no one can hear me.

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