This is my primary role in life currently: Being the mom and general caregiver to the resident 14½ year-old pianist and middle school student. Which means getting her to lessons and classes, making sure she follows through on practicing, gets her homework done on time and shows up at school regularly, along with the whole providing healthy food, clean laundry in the right sizes and now and then a little life guidance, and that she practices (did I say that already?). As she’s gotten older that’s tended toward saying things like, “Well, what do you think you need to do to be ready for your 1st solo recital this weekend?” rather than turning on the timer and telling her she can’t get up from the piano bench for 10 minutes, which was totally how I handled it when she was starting out at 4½. And there are days when I’m tempted to do that again, except I know rather deeply that the initiative needs to be hers way, way more than mine.
It’s just that when the Beethoven is in shambles, and I know she’s going to think terrible things about herself if the recital derails during the Bach Fantasia and becomes an irredeemable trainwreck during Qui Wei’s theme and variations so much so that her brief intermission after Beethoven becomes the moment she decides to walk the five miles home in her dress shoes without telling anyone she’s leaving, and that she’s exhausted and behind in everything after three days of a school trip to Canada and back that ended at three in the morning a bare week before said solo recital, and when she’s asking me if she really has to practice today …
Sorry. Was I shrieking? Everything went dark there for a moment.
Quick aside: Don’t you love the way part of the piece above sounds like waterfalls, and then a motorcycle goes by? Kate, whilst playing, envisioned a boat speeding along and then going over the falls. Without making a mess of things, even.
What to do? Say: “Well, what do you think you need to do to be ready for your 1st solo recital this weekend?” and then bake. Bake like I have three freezers to fill with things that are baked. Preferably things that require butter, sugar, chocolate and eggs. Although sour cream is good too. “What do you think you need to do?” and bake. Put the timer on for me, and let her sort things out for herself. Attend to what I can do, which is bake, and not what I can’t, which is force her to care for what she needs to do to achieve her desired goal, or even to make her desirous of a goal at all!
There were too many cookies. I remember at one point thinking I’d have been very good at rearranging deck chairs. Turns out there was no Titanic about it in the end. And that’s a good thing. Getting there was difficult. We’re each working on separating our wants, needs and desires from one another on this whole piano thing. It’s going to be an ongoing process for a while, methinks.
Fortunately, while we were at Eastman, setting up, listening to Kate, and then sharing our sweets with the friends and family who graced us with their presence, a new family moved into the house next door. As soon as we returned home and shrugged out of our concert clothes, we took over a plate of cookies. A big plate of cookies. A welcome-to-the-neighborhood, I-hope-we-don’t-make-you-crazy plate of cookies. We did put on other clothes first. We’re not totally out of our minds. Yet.
In late June we take this mother/daughter show on the road for a piano competition in which Kate is a finalist. She’s playing the Barber, Qui Wei and Beethoven for that. I may be commandeering an unsuspecting bakery in DC. Knitting just doesn’t quite take the edge off, or when it does, the edgy shows up in the knitting and it’s not pretty.