Growing up, I never had the chance to learn Music…the financial situation at home simply did not allow this luxury. My sister and I could only secretly envy those peers who had the better fortune of being sent for piano lessons. They were the blessed ones.
Fast forward 30 years later, my preschooler is enrolled in a well-reputed music programme which requires weekly parental accompaniment and sctive involvement. The hubs was delighted, ‘2 for the price of 1’, why not? And so we began Dana’s music education at the tender age of 4, after half a year’s wait list under this much sought-after Music Teacher.
The music programme originated from Canada and is one which requires intense rigour. If we missed one lesson, we can be certain we would have difficulties catching up. To a non-musically trained Mom, I found it demanding. Gradually, as the syllabus became more fast-paced, I began to exert pressure on Dana to master whatever the teacher has taught from the word ‘Go’…I wanted her to keep up with the Teacher’s standards…I became agitated whenever she made mistakes. I was strict so that she would not be easily complacent and overly confident. I am not grooming her to perform at The Carnegie Hall; I just wanted to train her to give her best in whatever she does. Much as I hate to admit it, music practices at home were stressful affairs (both for the child and for me). I would get migraines the night before each Music class. Daddy said I was too uptight…I said he was too Laissez-faire…The shadow of a Tiger Mom lurking in the background…
The wake up call came a week ago. After music class, Teacher requested for me to stay back to have a word with me in private. She observed that Dana was no longer quite the carefree girl she first met a year ago…When playing the piano, her shoulders were stiff and posture tense. She added that Dana is a brilliant girl and I should let her learn music for its enjoyment, not to please Mommy, Daddy or even the Teacher. I had turned a blind eye to these cues. I had seen Dana’s peers performed piano recitals and harboured hopes that one day in the near future, she too, might have the opportunity to shine on stage. Moreover, Daddy is so musically talented, surely our daughter would have some his musical genes? Subconsciously, my quest for perfection had morphed me into a Tiger Mom…
After a good one hour’s talk with the Teacher, I left the studio with a renewed perspective…She encouraged me to master the pieces that Dana was learning so that I can continue this journey together with her, not as a bystander but an encourager. I took her advice. That night, I apologized to Dana. That night, for the first time in my life, I sat at the piano and played…The more I practised, the more I realised how much pressure I had subjected my girl to all these while…
For the past week, our music practices had been much more enjoyable. Dana was appointed my DE-facto teacher and she absolute loves it! She proudly taught me how to sight read and she demonstrated how to play each song before I had my turn. We played duets together which were such sweet music to Daddy’s ears. We laughed over the silly mistakes I made (Gasp! I finally realised how difficult the homework were; and how good my daughter really was to be able to play the way she did!). I promised Dana that I will practise harder to keep up with her. It took an outsider to wake me up but humbled as I am, I am grateful that the awakening came before any irreversible damage is done. She is still the ever joyful, happy-go-lucky girl who loves to tinkle on the piano…I’m so relieved my Tiger Mom ways did not diminished her interest in music.
The road ahead is long, the syllabus will only get tougher and there will be others giants to slay…I am not sure if I would be able to catch up with her rate of learning. But I’ve learnt a few things from this episode. I have to:
– keep my expectations realistic;
– enlarge my margin for errors;
– keep a rein on my temper;
– always use my love, my words, my actions to build her up and
– give her space to grow at her own pace. She is after all, a 4 yr old.
Not everyone can be a music prodigy but everyone can make music that’s pleasing to God’s ears. I’ve never aspired to be a Tiger Mom and I hope to walk out of its shadow. To my family and friends, if I ever stray in this area of parenting, please gently knock some senses into me out of love, just as our Music Teacher did. I will be very grateful.