Let’s face it, parenting just isn’t an easy job. But the job is even harder when you are rearing a creative child with an incredible amount of talent.
No one ever faced a tougher job than Leopold Mozart, known in music history as the driving father who put his children, especially his son Wolfgang, on a grueling tour of Europe. What is interesting is that Leopold didn’t face anything much different than what we face each day as parents. Especially if you have or are a talented creative child.
OK, so as a parent you know you have something special on your hands. It may not be talent the kid was born with as I’m not sure that is even possible (see “Talent is Overrated”), but there certainly is aptitude there, and they keep surpassing your expectations and even your own ability.
Leopold saw this in Wolfgang, and tried his best to keep his son disciplined and on the right path. But that wasn’t so easy with the precocious Wolfie. His carefree, playful spirit can be found at the end of a letter to his sister Nannerl.
“Well, farewell. I kiss you 1000 times and remain, as always, your little old piggy wiggy. (signed) Wolfgang Amade Rosy Posy”
Leopold worried his talented and free-spirited son would wind up married to someone poor, and that was not what Leopold had hoped for.
“Leopold had a graphic view of his son’s possible fate as an impoverished musician. ‘ Utterly forgotten by the world, captured by some woman,’ he wrote, ‘you will die bedded on straw in an attic full of starving children.’ His anxiety was justified to some extent but he could see his son’s future only in extremes: success and glory or misery and starvation.” – Francis Carr, Mozart & Constanze
I think many of us fear the destiny of our own talented children like that: they will either be world renown and rich, or destitute doing their own thing.
There is a time in every parent’s life when they are let down by their kids. You know the drill. They understand the parameters of what is allowed, yet they still choose to break them. Wolfgang did this repeatedly and sometimes even gleefully!
When Wolfgang began to write of being enamored with Aloysia Weber, Leopold did not approve. In fact, when his son wrote about accompanying the Webers to Paris, Leopold went ballistic.
“As for your proposal to travel about with Herr Weber and his two daughters, it has nearly made me lose my reason?…a horrible idea! Could you really make up your mind to go traveling about the world with strangers?” – Letter to Wolfgang, February 11th, 1778
It almost sounds like a modern day parent warning their guitar player adolescent son about going on the road with a rock band.
Why This Matters
Well, it’s pretty obvious we all share Leopold’s struggle. Just like we have to treat disadvantaged or struggling kids special, it’s a struggle to be good, strong parents to those who are on the other end of the spectrum (especially with “adult” kids).
In all likelihood, Leopold meant well, and Wolfgang likely didn’t make it easy. In the end, you could say Mozart’s talent won out despite his folly, personality, spending habits, marriage, and competition. His tremendous catalog and output still happened regardless of things that were in or out of his father’s control.
Your kid may not be Mozart, but you can still help him navigate the waters of an artistic life with good guidance, a patient hand, and consistent discipline.
“There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Have a great week!
John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist but he plays one of the Internet. We’d love any and all thoughts you may have on this post, but since this is a blog meant to (hopefully) encourage real life application, please make them positive and on topic. However, corrections as always are welcome.