Jazz Parenting

I read a fascinating article in the New York Times a few weeks ago. It compared the process of creativity in innovation to jazz music. While the most skilled jazz musicians are best known for their mind-blowing improvisation, they must truly be masters of the basics of music – tone, composition, rhythm, timing – in order to pull it all together.

I think this explains a lot about how we can go wrong as parents. Early on, I treated parenting like school. Read the books, take the classes, learn as much as you can in advance so you can get a gold star and ace the test. Funny thing with kids – rarely do they follow rules or fit the mold of many (if any!) “expert” parenting guides.

In many ways, good parenting is like great jazz. True, you need to master the basics (feeding, bathing, diaper changing and the like). You lay the foundation of love and protection, and the rest is really improvisation. The rhythm of each family – and each day within a given family – is different. To be a good parent, you need to learn to ride the beat and trust your instincts. Allow each member of the band to take a solo (and give them the flexibility to extend a beat or two when they’re on a roll). At times, the result is utter cacophony – a combination of disparate, seemingly incompatible tones. A crazy beat that no one outside of your immediate circle can understand. At others, it’s a masterpiece – clean and simple. But the sound is always true to your unique family, your unique situation.

I think we all could use a little more jazz in our lives…

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