Sophia is at piano practice as I write. I’ve got half an hour to kill. I’ve decided not to go inside, but to wait out in the car today. It helps that it’s gorgeous outside. We’ve had temperatures that make global warming seem less like a hoax and all of us a little more afraid of the end of the world, but my goodness, we’ll enjoy every minute of the end of the world while we can. Yes, I’m in my car, on my laptop. But my windows are rolled all the way down.
During Sophia’s practice, I usually go into the room reserved for waiting parents and students next in line. I spend the whole time pretending to read while I listen to her play. My eyebrows twitch when she fumbles over the notes sometimes. I cringe a little when she’s not on tempo. I get worried that she didn’t practice as much as she should have the week before. I stress out when she gets something wrong. I tap my foot to keep the rhythm which I hope she will notice, via ESP. Sophia is so defiant when she refuses to acknowledge my tapping foot through the walls!
You wouldn’t believe the inner mess I was at her recent adjudication.
At adjudication, each student plays by heart a piece at his or her grade level and gets marked on it. The student plays before the adjudicator only. This is done behind closed doors. Those who are waiting (again with the parents and students next in line) can hear everything perfectly. In a room full of people, if you have a keen eye, you can identify the mom whose child is playing based on her ever-so-slight sway to the rhythm, her irregular breathing patterns, her barely noticeable tapping toe, her pursed, non-existent lips… followed by the unfurling of her brow and a sigh of relief when the piece is completed. I’m not the only one! THIS was group therapy for me and the other mommies didn’t even know it.
I had a lovely visit with my friend, Sharon, at the hockey rink a couple weeks ago. We were trying to kill two birds with one stone. She had to attend her 7-year-old son’s hockey game in Barrie and we’d been looking for a mutually convenient time to meet = impossible. We watched the game (my first!) and there were several moments where we actually had to press pause during the conversation so that Sharon could make an itty-bitty scream (muted for my benefit, I suspect) or hold her breath when her son had the puck. She had to keep her eyes on the action the whole time. I was amazed that we’d managed to have such a great visit without her looking at me once during the game. We are not so dissimilar, I thought. She’s a “Hockey Mom,” I’m a “Metronome Mom.” But Sharon cheered. She cheered a lot. And I didn’t notice any stress lines on her face at all.
Moms love to root our kids on… some of us do it with intent. If we put our children in extra-curricular activities, we hope that they do well. We want them to try their best because we want the best for them, right? But – if my suspicions are true, that there are other Metronome Moms out there – it’s possible that steering comes more naturally to us than cheering.
At one point, I was worried about Sophia’s lack of discipline with her piano. I’d been nagging her almost daily to practice and I was worried about whether she should continue on with her lessons if her heart wasn’t in it. I asked Sophia’s piano teacher if I should help Sophia with her practicing by actually sitting down with her and making sure she’s doing the work? Like, turn the page and count out the beats for her?
To my surprise, Sophia’s teacher didn’t think it was a hot idea. She was worried that I might correct instead of encourage, try to fix the negative instead of commend the positive. This, she told me, might be the very worst thing for Sophia. As in, it is preferable for Sophia not to practice than for me to make her. Why? Because I have the power to turn her off piano forever.
What does a Metronome Mom do with that?
Now, I know her piano teacher was not judging me, but the fact that it resonated with me means I should probably evaluate how I root for my child. If I’m honest, I can acknowledge that she will learn best by making her own mistakes, struggling through the difficult stuff, failing and excelling both. What’s my role then?
That’s why I’m sitting here in this car thinking about it. It’s getting awfully hot in here, by the way. Maybe the best a parent can do is provide opportunities, and allow other authorities (like piano teachers, adjudicators and hockey coaches) do their job. I’m sure Sophia knows when she’s not at her best, does my bringing it up help anything?
Like Sharon, I need to be wearing her team colours, squealing when the puck comes close to the net, or when Sophia plays her piece through perfectly, even if the tempo’s a little off or she forgot to add dynamics.
Oh—her lesson’s over. Here she is.
What am I doing out here with the laptop in the car? Um…
How’d you do on your adjudication? A?! Good girl!
I knew it!