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One afternoon your ten-year old daughter comes home from school, enthused about learning to play an instrument. Your eyeballs start to throb. Your head begins to pulsate. You ask yourself whether tin ears are passed down from parents to their children. How do you resolve this dissonant dilemma?

AGREEMENT entered into on ___________, 200_ , by noise-averse Parents and instrument wielding Child.

WHEREAS, Child has expressed an interest in studying the sax;

WHEREAS, Parents hate the sax and don't even consider it a real instrument;

WHEREAS, Child argues that playing the sax may lead to the Presidency or at least to a shot on Arsenio Hall;

WHEREAS, Parents concede the worthiness of such goals, but remind Child that after three years of piano lessons she didn't even master Chopsticks and, anyway, shouldn't Child play something feminine like the flute?

WHEREAS, Child's best friend's mother is letting her take up the sax, and if Parents let Child do this one little thing, she promises she will never again crush her cousin's accordion.

NOW, THEREFORE, Parents and Child agree to the following terms:

1. In lieu of studying the sax or the flute, Child shall play the clarinet which is sort of like the sax but much less annoying. The parties further agree that if Child complies with this contract for a year, she may, if she deems it appropriate, switch to the sax. Parents feel safe in making this concession because Child has never complied with anything for longer than a nanosecond.

2. Parents shall pay all clarinet rental bills. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if Child doesn't practice at least one-half hour per day, the obligation to pay such bills shall revert to Child who shall pay them out of her allowance, even if it takes the rest of her life. However, Child's duty to practice shall be void when her body temperature exceeds 101 degrees and when Parents are entertaining guests.

3. Practice sessions shall take place in Child's bedroom with the door tightly shut at all times. In the event a Parent is ill or had a bad day at the office, such session shall at Parents' option be canceled or be conducted in the basement tool closet. Child hereby waives any right she may have to claim that closet clarinet practice constitutes child abuse.

4. Phrases like "But I don't wanna practice" are hereby be banned. Any utterance of same by Child shall increase her practice time, except in the event of a Parental headache.

5. Child shall not be required to regale relatives with clarinet renditions of "Doe A Deer," "Jingle Bells," or "Mary Had A Little Lamb". Nor shall Child inflict same on guests without the mutual written agreement of all interested parties. If Child does in fact perform, phrases such as "she's such a cute little talent" shall be strictly prohibited, especially when accompanied by head patting or cheek pinching.

6. Child acknowledges that she will have to carry the clarinet to school twice a week for lessons and band practice. The weight of such instrument shall not entitle Child to a ride to or from school. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if Child carries more than four school books on any given day, she shall be given a lift by a Parent to be selected in rotation, provided that Child establishes to said Parent's satisfaction that Child used said books within fifteen hours of said ride. Parents concede that Child's arithmetic book is unusually heavy and that it should count as two books in making the aforesaid textbook calculation.

7. Child acknowledges that clarinet reeds are expensive and delicate and agrees to use them only for the purpose of emitting clarinet type sounds. In return for Parents' agreement to supply her with reeds, Child agrees not to chew them, bend them, or feed them to the dog.

8. Parents shall attend Child's band concerts and shall abstain from all embarrassing auditorium activity including but not limited to taking flash photos, jumping up and down in their seats and waving, or yelling "That's my kid. Isn't she great?" Parents further agree to applaud with enthusiasm no matter how much their ears hurt.

9. Child promises that if she ever becomes a famous musician she will give Parents complete credit, especially when she accepts her first Grammy.

WHEREFORE, we affix our signatures.

© 1993 Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.
1st Published Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine

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