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.
I don’t know if Amy Chua has done a service or disservice to mothers worldwide with her book. There’s nothing wrong with having certain expectations of our children and ensuring that they live up to those expectations, e.g. Alison has been wanting to quit ballet for the last two years but I refuse to let her because her reason is that it’s “getting too difficult”. So she continues to take ballet, because the lesson here is that you don’t give up when the going gets tough. If that makes me a tiger mum, so be it!
I have same sentiment as Jean on ” don’t give up”. When my girl started Wushu and now she gets lazy and been wanting to quit.
Separately, on the piano class, I feel a bit shameful. We have stopped the lesson. And I suspect the one you mentioned here is the one we enquired earlier to transit her into next. The pre-requisite of parental commitment hesitated me. I have two girls and I am already stretched, how can I stay on with her at least she is independence and learn piano without me stressing? She already having problem with study…
My episode of piano lesson is hanging in the air and staring at me for a decision. Why we started it at the first place? Daddy sweet talked me over:(.
Dana's Mommy says
thanks for sharing. I haven’t read Amy Chua’s book entirely, only excerpts. I agree with you about not letting our kids choose the ‘easy way out’ especially in mastering a new skill like ballet and music where a certain rigor and discipline is needed to maintain consistency. I guess for me, my takeaway is to balance my expectations with greater degree of tolerance and patience…
Dana's Mommy says
PC, thanks for dropping by! I too didn’t know that Piano practices can be a source of strain and headache between parent and child! As working moms, we only have so few hours in the evenings and weekends to spend with them…so we definitely have to prioritise and pick our ‘battles’…Regarding piano, if she has interest, you might want to consider engaging a private piano teacher?
Hi Ange, I’m intending to let Angel take up piano next time too because her cousins are having lessons at Yamaha and seem to enjoy it lots. Agree that stress might come inevitably but at the end of it, it’s for leisure and enjoyment, or even bonding, but not for awards and fame. Thanks for reminding me about that! =)
Thank you for your honest and heartfelt sharing! I think as parents we walk the fine line between giving our kids the necessary push to succeed and being overbearing. You’ve reminded me that a love for music and the gift of being able to play for enjoyment and in service to God is why I want my kids to learn music in the first place. I shouldn’t be caught up with performance and results and forget that primary objective, so thank you for that!
Mrs. JYH says
I’ve never had the opportunity to learn the piano but i’ve witnessed how my mum pushed my brother to learn the piano… but he gave up because he’s just not interested in piano i guess. my mum and bro stuck through the music course for 6 years… I think music is the most enjoyable when there isn’t any stress… so just let things go at you&your childs pace. if she’s good at it then the performance will come naturally! all the best~
itsy bitsy ME! says
My son has been learning music for the past 6 years and the journey has had it’s challenges. He is not exactly diligent in practicing his pieces and every time I have to nag at him to practice. So much so that I had asked him to quit. Yep, that’s right, I asked him to stop the lessons. It just gets too much into me, I’m tired of the constant argument on his practising. But my son refuses to quit, so I guess he does enjoy the lessons though he hates practising. I think as parents, we can only provide the opportunity, ultimately it is up to the child to decide what he likes. There’s no point in over pushing an unwilling child. A peaceful and loving parent-child relationship is worth much more than anything.
Thanks Angeline, for the post. 🙂 I would not have been able to tell or guess that you were going through such a journey. It is certainly not an easy post to write – making it public that we, as parents, make mistakes and fall prey to pressures from the society. Thank you for the honesty.
Dumpling is learning a musical instrument too and I know how hard it is to motivate and guide the little ones when it comes to mastering an instrument. *Hugs*
Dominique Goh says
Both my boy are learning the piano and it wasn’t their first choice of instrument..however they are slowly learning to enjoy the piano and are getting good at it. I don’t make it too stressful for them and from the start told the teacher they do not need to sit for exams every year alternative good enough. Good on you to learn the piano with Dana.
Yu Yi says
I enjoy reading your blogs mainly because your reflections always go back to God and biblical values. I have similar struggles when guiding my 6-year old son in piano learning. Sometimes I find myself realizing my own dream through him. The original objective of learning music -to be able to serve God in this area is easily forgotten. Your post serves as great reminder. By the way, would you be able to share more on the music programme Dana is taking?
L Lee says
I suppose as a ‘first generation piano learner’ I have gone through what Dana is going through. 😛 finished grade 8 at age 15 and that was it, no more thank you very much.
So I am more chill wrt my kids learning to play. They can start when they are older, when they are quite sure they want to, and can promise to persevere.
I do empathise with the allure of watching little kids play beautiful pieces! (Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club comes to mind)
I read Amy Chua’s book cos someone handed me a copy, and I must say she herself is a ridiculous over-achiever (and I am jealous to bits of how good she looks at her age and her credentials, never mind her daughters’ accomplishments). But her book is an acknowledgement of failure, not a battle cry of triumph.