During Christmas vacation my daughter announced out of the blue that she no longer wanted to take piano. Now this came as a shock. I was under the (obviously deluded) impression that she was enjoying it . That she actually looked forward to practicing and going to her lesson.
So, after I took a deep breath and consciously refrained from saying something that would turn her over to the dark side of never wanting to do anything ever again, I asked her why. She told me she didn’t feel like she had enough time to practice, that she felt her schedule was weighing down on her and that she didn’t have enough time for homework.
As this was at bedtime and my husband was out, I decided to wait until morning before I talked about it with her. Which as it turns out, was the best thing I could do. Who knew that the old cliché, “think before you speak” actually worked. I tell you, I learn something new everyday.
So I thought about it. I thought about how Christmas vacation was nearing the end, and how I felt about going back to work (I wanted to quit too- in fact I wanted to quit everything and go live in the desert, but that’s another problem). Then I thought about how I would rather she quit school than piano (this is just me though- piano seems more important.) Then I thought about my mother and how she forced me and my sisters to take piano for years. How, probably if I was given the chance I would have quit, but since she never gave me the option, it was just something I did until my late teens. Don’t get me wrong- I was never any good and practiced only the minimum (I also had a laid back, pot smoking jazz pianist as a teacher) but I can read music (which actually led to one of my first steady library gigs believe it or not) and I still enjoy tinkering when I have the time (which, alas, is not often). I guess my point is, like speaking French, my mother did not give me a choice when my choice would have been the bad one. For that I am extremely grateful.
But, being the new fangled parent that I am, I struggle with forcing my kids to do anything. Especially when it comes to something like playing music, where the joy in it is essential. But it is also hard work, and I suspected my daughter was copping out because she was reaching a level where she was going to have to put more time in it, practice a little more. My husband confirmed this, saying that the piano teacher was mentioning how she needed to practice a little more. His reasoning was that if she didn’t, she would have to stay on the same songs and would eventually get bored of it.
So the next morning. The talk. And I have to say, one of my very few stellar parenting moments (it is still a bit of a shock). I told her exactly what I said above. That the reason she needed to practice more was because she was getting better. That as her mother, my job was to help her make decisions like these until she was old enough to do it herself. And yes, I told her that as her mother, sometimes I know better, which I think I do. I told her how important music was to her ballet, how it helps her with her rythm and even with her math.
Of course, I might just as well have been talking to a wall, for all she listened. it wasn’t until I told her that I would sit down with her every night that she actually perked up. We sat down at the piano bench and I helped her through her songs. Fifteen minutes passed quickly and before she even realised it, she had practiced!
So yes, I decided to force her to continue (in fact, I forced my youngest daughter to start up as well). But by making that commitment for them, I have forced myself to pay more attention. Ain’t that always the way it goes?