When our children were younger, we lived in a tiny town perched on the side of a breathtaking Colorado mountain. There were few cultural opportunities in this rural mountain area and my daughter, an accomplished violinist, opened a violin studio to teach young children.
A second-grader we’ll call Emily entered our life like a breath of fresh air. She and her single mother lived with grandparents. Her shoes were scuffed, her head stayed down, and her violin was too big. She didn’t interact with people much.
But, over the course of weeks, magic began to happen. Emily practiced. A lot. She had a good ear and a natural touch. Her tone was pure and she marched through her little Suzuki book at a rate that was astounding. We could see her confidence growing by leaps and bounds and she seemed well on her way to finding a gift that could change her life.
Then, one week, everything changed. Emily’s pieces had not improved at all. When she played, it was like she was seeing the music for the first time. She was distracted. This went on for several weeks and finally, my daughter discovered the probable cause. When picking up Emily from her lesson that day, her grandfather proudly proclaimed that he had purchased cable TV for the home.
Like most seven-year-olds (or twenty-seven-year-olds or seventy-seven-year-olds), Emily had easily defaulted to spending her time doing something that required nothing of her, did not develop skills, did not expand her world, but that seemed exciting on the surface.
Dilution, the weakening of something by adding too many elements to it, is as common as it is heartbreaking. Dilution has the power to completely modify a life, to change the course of a future.
Remember that as you are making decisions about what you let in your home, the things you allow in your children’s life or in your own. Like moths drawn to a flickering flame that will eventually destroy them, so are we humans foolish enough to be captivated by what is easy and mindless and has no cost emotionally. It takes extreme maturity and foresight to choose a harder path.
I was working with an amazing teen some time back. She was an incredible math/science kid with research under her belt, had won entry into some of the most prestigious summer STEM programs in the country, was an athlete as well as a musician, and loved classical literature and ballroom dancing. Yet, she wasn’t stressed or rushed. One day we were working on interview skills and she made a comment that explained how she was able to do so much so well, “I don’t do Facebook, Mrs. Webb. I don’t have time to waste.”
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