Practice, Practice, Practice

My daughter is gearing up for her Spring Piano Recital. This means that, though I have never played her two pieces, I have heard them enough that, I’m fairly certain, I could sit down at the piano and play them through with nary an error.

This is a nice way of saying I’ve heard them so much I sing them in my sleep.

Which is a nice way of saying I’ve heard them ad nauseum.

Which is a nice way of saying I’ve heard them so often it about makes me nauseous…which really isn’t true so I didn’t say it.

My daughter, like her mother before her, dislikes practicing greatly. G.R.E.A.T.L.Y.

This is a much nicer way of saying that she hates it.

She does, however, love performing. In other words, she wants the glory but doesn’t want to do the work.

I can relate to this.

Glory is fun. Work is work. I like attention. I like praise. But I get impatient with the process sometimes.

So I find it extremely weird that I’m a writer. Because writing is a lot of process with very little to show for it at the end of the day. Hours and hours and weeks and weeks and yes, years and years of work – with, if you’re lucky – a 400-page novel at the end of it. If I got paid by the hour I’d be a wealthy woman.

But back to piano practice.

I get so frustrated when she fusses about practicing, because I know – I KNOW – that it’s worth it despite the pain. I KNOW that she will regret it later if she quits. I KNOW that virtually every adult who took lessons when they were young and then quit, wishes that they had continued. I also know how she stared at my friend Mandy, as she sang and played piano at the Good Friday service at church; how she admired her; how, in her mind, she was imagining herself there, years from now, singing and playing and moving people’s hearts.

But moving hearts takes practice.

Oh, how I remember loathing piano practice. I loathed the monotony. I loathed the theory. I loathed the drills. I even loathed the recitals.

But I loved it when my dad would make up silly words to my goofy little songs. “The Neat-O Barn Song” remains a family favorite.

And I loved being able to sit down and play a song, to sight-read hymns, to play the theme from “Exodus” that I’d admired my sister playing years before. Or remember Music Box Dancer? (I don’t think I could actually ever play that one.) Or, of course, Fur Elise, that standard of young female piano players…and who knew it had more parts to it than just those first few notes?!

Sticking with it is worth it. Not giving up is worth it. Learning to fight through the pain is worth it. Learning the self-discipline of doing a job despite the bits you don’t enjoy is so very worth it.

But do I want my daughter to harbor loathful memories of practicing when I’m cross with her for not wanting to do it and she’s cross with me for making her and “ain’t nobody happy”?

But am I being a Tiger Mother if I keep on making her play?Heaven forbid. We read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua in book club a year or so ago. I NEVER, EVER want to be that mother. HOWEVER, I agree with her that we “western mothers” tend to be too lax in a lot of things.

Which is a nice way of saying we let our kids get away with too much.

If we let our kids quit just because it’s “not fun” then how are they going to learn self-discipline?

My mom let me quit lessons after I’d taken them for seven years and I was facing my 4th teacher (after 2 moves away and 1 teacher dropping me as her student!) and when the issue of finding a new teacher came up and I looked at her and said, “Mom, please don’t make me do it anymore.”

And she didn’t. Thank goodness.

So, my dear daughter, I promise: in 5 more years…I’ll consider letting you quit. But for now, the Tiger’s claws (albeit short ones) are out and you’re stuck with it.

Love you.

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