The hours following the evening meal definitely separate the men from the boys.

After supper, parents dream of soft sofas, quiet reading or a little romantic music. Children, on the other hand, use the evening meal as a frantic pit stop to refuel for the rest of the high speed race until bedtime.It's enough to make even the most patient parent contemplate repeating the well-known solution found by the old woman who lived in a shoe. I've never believed those nursery rhyme illustrations that show her with 97 hair-raising kids. Nobody has that many kids. She probably had two or three, but after supper, it suddenly became "so many children she didn't know what to do."

The other evening, after a hectic dinner hour, I retreated to the love seat for a few moments of peace and leisurely newspaper reading. The children had other things in mind. Aubrey began practicing her shooting technique with a plastic suction basketball hoop she planted on my forehead. Arianne, Joseph and Jacob created hurricane force winds racing in circles around me, while big brother Jordan and big sister April played stick-out-your-foot-and-watch-little-brothers-and-sister-trip.

At this point, I was about to yell something unprintable when I decided instead to count to 10. Gradually my pulse slowed, the red left my neck and I began listening to a strangely "beautiful noise" around me.

All the family chaos seemed to transform into a myriad of musicians warming up before a concert begins. I began to see quiet purpose in the nerve-racking finger exercises and disquieting disharmony. I realized it takes time to fine-tune the instruments - and more importantly minutes, hours, days, weeks and years of difficult practice before a musician ever reaches the concert hall.

Budding musicians need time, lots of time, before they're ready to hear the unique melody only they can play. All this preparation called home and family life leads to something wonderful.

It takes all kinds of instruments . . . the gentle steady strings, the rebellious brass, the unpredictable percussion and mellow woodwinds to make the orchestral family complete, a deep, resonating, bright, full expression of sound.

It takes all kinds of individuals to make the rich, living music of families. There is not right or wrong song or more important rhythm. There is only vibrancy in variation and excitement in individual expression. The most beautiful family score is a true mosaic of the air, an invisible voice of creation.

As a parent, I hope maybe somewhere along the way, I may have inspired a note or two or planted the seeds for a few choice lyrics in my children. But when the concert begins, I know my child will be on his own.

When the musicians carefully position their instruments, then raise their eyes to the master to begin, I will be on the front row - my child's most devoted fan as he singularly follows the music he hears, his joyous solo amidst the symphony of life.