I am a recovering perfectionist, so this topic hits home. I came to some hard realizations about it this week, too. Up until a couple weeks ago, Emily has been, in general, extremely enthusiastic about piano lessons and practicing. I have been sitting with her, coaching and
It all came to a head last month while Emily was working on songs for the STAC piano festival at Wartburg that were well beyond what should be expected of her. They were something a 3rd or 4th year student would be playing rather than a 6 month beginner. It wasn't really the teacher's fault, as she was just using the normal progression of songs. Emily had just learned each one so fast, and I had sort of asked for a challenge.
Anyway, Emily finally hit a wall and just started shutting down. She wouldn't listen or cooperate at all, and we'd both get frustrated within 5 min. of sitting down at the piano. Finally, after some deep reflections, I realized I had become the mom I totally did not want to be. I had started imposing my experiences and my perfect expectations on Emily. In the process, I had squashed her joy.
After talking to some very wise women in my life, I realized that I just had to completely step away. If my goal for her was to be an outstanding, accomplished pianist with an impeccable resume, I was clearly not going to get there on the track we were on. But should that even be my goal? It's just like wanting and pushing your child to be an all-star athlete or a perfect A-student. My true vision is and should be to foster a lifelong love for music--even if it's imperfect.
So, I apologized to Emily for my actions and told her the new plan. Her job was to play through her festival pieces once a day for the next 10 days. My job was to not say anything unless she had a specific question. She readily agreed. That night she played through her songs the best I'd ever heard--finally correcting some of the things I'd being critiquing for weeks. Then she started messing around with chords and the damper pedal. She bounded into the office explaining that she was making up a song about a princess being lifted up into dreamland. And my heart sang. I had not permanently messed her up. I had not killed the joy. Praise the Lord for grace and new beginnings.
Follow up: For the most part, I have stayed away from the piano and said very little. It has been so very hard. Every fiber in my body wants to correct every imperfect dynamic, staccato and hand position. But Emily has happily sat down to play every single day since then. She did fabulous at the festival (see later post). Her teacher is graduating, so we will be done with lessons on April 24. We will take a break and then decide what to do next fall.