By Heather O.
Last week was one of those weeks. You know, those weeks where you look at your kids and think, “Who ARE you people?”
I’ve known my son for 6 and a half years now, and he’s not a complicated kid. Typical boy, which means give him a big park to play in, some sticks, some pals, maybe a ball or two, and he’s good to go. My daughter is more enigmatic, as her verbal skills are rather limited, but still, we had settled into a pretty predictable routine of behavior that I was comfortable with. But last week, I felt completely at a loss with them, like something had invaded my precious offsprings’ bodies and turned them into something….else.
I told my girlfriend of these feelings, a mom of 5. Her response?
“Get used to it”.
So I’m grateful today for people who deal with my kids who are not me.
Last week, J had a rotten piano lesson. I had practiced with him, and thought he was prepared for the lesson. Well, prepared or not, he acted like a monkey on speed when he got there. He was all over the place, and frankly, I was a little embarrassed. What is going on with my kid? I thought. Why is he acting like this? Why is he playing his pieces so badly? I felt old feelings well up within me from my own piano lesson days, where the teacher would just sigh as I bumbled through my pieces, trying unsuccessfullly to hide the fact that mostly, I was winging it. I was frustrated and agitated as I watched my kid hike his feet onto the piano bench and bounce up and down like chimp throwing poop at the zoo. (There was no poop, though. Just so you know.)
To her everlasting credit, his piano teacher handled the situation with aplomb. She didn’t berate J for his out of control behavior, she simply turned everything into a joke and used humor to make J settle down. She used humor to show him how terrible his pieces were, and gently taught him how to do it right. However, at the end of the lesson, when he demanded stickers for his performance, she simply shrugged and said, “You’ll get stickers when you do these pieces right. But I think you need another week for that.”
J was suitably stunned. He’d never failed to get stickers before. He stopped bouncing, and considered his music thoughtfully. “Okay,” he said.
I should also mention that the way this teacher has her studio set up, the parents are excluded from the lesson. She has french doors that she closes, and the parents can hear and see everything, but there is no question that these lessons are between her and the student. Wise woman.
After the disastrous lesson, I called my mother, an accomplished music teacher herself, and moaned about it.
“When your students are out of control, what do you think about their parents? Do you wonder if their parents aren’t doing enough with them? I mean, what do you think the teacher was thinking about me as a mother?”
I could almost hear my mother roll her eyes as she said, “Calm down. It’s not about you. She probably just thought, ‘Wow, J is squirrelly today’”.
So, it’s NOT about ME? Dang it.
After J failed to get his much loved stickers, something happened. He buckled down to practice, and did it right. He wanted to show the teacher he could do it, and worked hard and planned ahead as to which stickers he would pick this week. I held back and watched, and sure enough, yesterday he got his stickers. He beamed as I asked him, “Did you have a good lesson?”
“Yup! Just like I knew I would! I practiced a lot this week, remember?”
I realized then the importance of what my mother had said. It’s not about me. If I had made J’s failure my failure, then his success would have been my success. It would not have been his. And there would have been no beaming about a job well done.
It seems a basic lesson, to let your kids sort of fail on their own so they can problem solve for themselves, and then know that the subsequent success was their own. I’m sure lots of you veteran moms out there are sort of laughing at me, a relatively new recruit to the ranks, figuring this out now. And based on my girlfriend’s above mentioned comment, this isn’t going to be the first time I’m taught a lesson about parenting that most people know already. The thought isn’t exactly a pleasant one.
Motherhood is the ultimate continuing ed course, I guess. Which is just a fancy way of saying crud, I’m gonna be clueless for a long, long time.