Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dear Violin x2


Dear Violin x2,

As your photo above announces, I have just begun life as Mommy-of-Two-Violinists.  While the siblings will share a common instrument to appreciate and teach and learn from one another, what I see ahead in my life now are: twice the daily practice time at home, twice the weekly private lessons, twice the weekly repertoire classes, twice the tuition, and, most obviously, that I will be the one schlepping two violins to all these places.

My Dear Daughter began her journey with the violin at age five.  It was a brand new experience for the both of us.  I knew nothing about the instrument, but I did fall in love with it the first time I touched her tiny violin.  I decided to learn to play it alongside her, since the Suzuki method requires a huge parental commitment in learning and teaching students at home anyway.  I inherited a student violin around that time, and began my own quest with the instrument as an adult.  I learned from DD's classes and went home and practiced.  What a great bargain, since, by tagging along, we were getting two lessons for the price of one.  Well, sort of.

Four years later, DD has soared beyond my abilities in playing the violin.  While I progressed faster at the beginning, DD overtook my pace a year ago and I've only been able to help her with music theory and guide her home practices.  Let's face it: I don't practice everyday.  I used to, but more recently, something called writing has gotten in the way of daily practices.

DD started playing violin with a fury of perfectionism at work.  If she made a mistake, she'd start the entire piece over.  That practice eventually went away, but it was clearly a struggle for her at the beginning.  I remember the tears and frustration and the moments of insanity--on both of our  parts--during the early days of violin with her.  I understood her frustrations--believe me--because I played it, too, and the violin is a difficult instrument to learn.  But getting around her rooted personality was even harder.  Now that Dear Son has embarked on this same journey, I had hoped to make his initial experience smoother because I have learned a thing or two from my Violinist #1.

I will never forget the excitement and pride DS displayed when he brought home his rental violin for the first time.  He has been watching and listening to his big sister play for the last four years, and now it's his turn.  On the first day, he played his violin five different times.  At his first lesson, he was brimming with joy when the teacher commended his bow hold.  We started off on the right foot.

But I knew that the tears were destined to come.  DS asks just as much of himself as does DD of herself in everything he does.  I've got my work cut out for me.

Last night, we were all tired after a long day out.  I knew that DS was dragging by practice time, but he still wanted to do it.  It was also the day that we moved onto a new rhythm lesson.  He had previously mastered the 2/4 key signature, and could play two quarter notes or a half note in a measure.  The new key signature was 3/4, and he had to play both a quarter note and a half note in a measure.  Between his fatigue and the new material, I saw him skid down that slippery slope of frustration, and finally the tears began to flow.

I make it a point to not continue any practicing if and when tears show up.  There's no point in playing with tears because practice should be constructive.  You can't learn much when you're frustrated, and I don't want my kids to associate playing the violin with negative feelings.  We were both so tired, and I was this close to calling it quits.  Finally, I asked DS to stop playing until he could calm down and not cry each time he didn't play the beats correctly.  It was just not working, and he started to cry even harder.

In my tired stupor, I suddenly knew what to do.  I just had to offer him some Mommy Magic!  I pulled him towards me and sat him on my lap.  I told him he needed a hug and a surprise.

After rocking him for a few seconds, I gave a him a surprise squeeze.  He smiled.

I told him that the squeeze will help 'push' out his frustrations.  More hugging; another squeeze.  He chuckled. 

One last hug; a final squeeze.  He laughed.   

All gone? I asked.  Yes, he agreed.

We tried playing again, and he did it!  Magically.  And the smile he wore on the day he played violin for the first time appeared again.  He played many more times and finally understood how to play the 3/4 key signature rhythm.

Mommy Magic saved the day. 

For the first time in his short experience with the violin, DS hit a bump in the road, and for the first time as his home mentor, I was able to repave his path.  With DD, I didn't know how to stop her tears in a constructive manner right away.  It wasn't until later that I incorporated some Mommy Magic in the form of games and imaginary play into violin practice for her.  I feel badly that I couldn't have been as understanding for DD at the beginning of her violin practices.  But, the upside is that I now have the experience and music knowledge to better help my Violinist #2. 

For the first time as his home violin mentor, I feel like I did something really good.  This is not a pat on my own back, by any means.  But, you know when you do something as a parent that makes your child feel really good because he or she feels accomplished and successful?

THAT.  

So, Violin x2, if anything, you will have made me a better parent for learning how to help my kiddos and finding that extra bit of patience to do so--not only in violin practice--but Life in general.  DS came to me today and asked for some Mommy Magic.  After I 'squeezed' him, I also gave DD an extra hug, just because.

So.

All is good.

Until I have to spend twice the amount of fretting and worrying over two kids' violin recitals and concerts from now on.  Somebody help me.

Sincerely,
Me

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P.S.  This post is inspired in part by one of Studio 30 Plus' Weekly Prompts this week: 'the first time'.


21 comments:

  1. I played violin, too, when I was growing up. Joining the orchestra was really a great experience for me, and I think back on it fondly.

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    1. DD will be starting orchestra at her school this year! It will be a great experience for her, too. Thanks, Asianmommy!

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  2. I have no musical talents. My kids like to sing (kinda) but I'm not sure if they will show interest in an actual instrument. To have 2 kids so young playing the violin? Wow.

    Good on you and your mommy magic :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Carrie! I'm lucky they both showed interest, and have not asked to quit, yet!

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  3. My oldest son plays the drums...so, you know, home practice time is...LOUD. He, too, is a perfectionist-by-birth ( I never like to say by design because that would make it my fault)...but he also has a photographic memory and it does make learning music a bit easier. My daughter wants to play the flute or the drums or the violin but probably the guitar. She has an acoustic guitar but I have yet to get her private lessons because I suck at parenting. :)

    This post hit a nerve and I admit by the end, some watery overlay was distorting my vision a bit near the end...just, because I sympathize so much with you...it is so hard to be a Mom sometimes, it is so hard to know what thing is the right thing on the right day for the right kid and to your point, I am learning as I go along and swear, swear that my third ( surprise) child came to me to make me a better person, a better mother, a better soul...

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    1. Kim, these words you write are special to me. Because everything you said rings true. I like your 'perfectionist-by-birth' label; or else, well, yeah.

      It is INCREDIBLY hard to wear the Mommy Hat and the Teacher Hat *at the same time*. Expectations are thrown out the window because we have to play both roles. And doing what's right as a teacher is not necessary right as a mommy. Thank you for understanding and relating to this, in this post, as my friend.

      I read this quote somewhere last week: "We teach our kids about life, while our kids teach us what life is about." Or something to that effect. That goes so well with your last thought, and I love your last thought, and your baby boy will one day appreciate that with all his heart. (HUG)!

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  4. I played the violin too, but not til I was in 5th grade so there were never tears of frustration b/c I really didn't care ;). Anyways, seems like the perfectionists don't fall far from the tree huh? You should just let them play wrong for a bit, have some fun, and enjoy the imperfection, just like you did in your recent post. Or have them do a, who can play "worse" contest. Haha.

    I love your Mommy Magic moment. You definitely helped him get out of his funk fast. Go ahead, pat yourself on the head. It's great to have parenting successes when most of the time, we feel like failures ;).


    And awesome that playing with your daughter taught you how to better deal with your son's frustrations. First children are always guinea pigs ;)

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    1. Lisa, I'm guilty as charged. When I read "let them play wrong for a bit," every single hair on the back of my neck stood up. Perfectionism is something I struggle with everyday, and I'm terrified that I will have caused it in my children, but I know I have. I am to blame.

      But the reason they are this way is because they care. Very much. They're good kids, and they really want their teacher to know that they worked hard and they did their best work. But there is a game where they play on different parts of the strings to make 'different' sounds so they can find the place to make the best sound/tone. Does that count? =)

      I was a guinea pig myself, so I know the feeling. That's why I always want to make up for anything DD may have missed out on due to my inexperience. We live and learn, right?

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    2. Hey, nothing wrong with doing your best and it's great that they love to practice. I bet a lot of parents have the opposite problem where their kids don't practice enough and they wonder why they pay so much money. Keep doing what you're doing - showing by example, so that they learn it's ok to be the best them they can be.

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    3. Thanks, Lisa! It's wonderful that we have these parenting discussions on our blogs, isn't it? But to my credit, I *do* leave dirty dishes in the sink overnight and *don't* clean out hair from the drain daily. Does that make me less of a perfectionist? Or just a lazy bum? LOL. I guess we all have our own 'things.' I appreciate your thoughts!

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    4. It's like our own virtual "village". Takes one to raise children, right?? You don't live in my house, so go ahead and leave dishes in the sink and hair in the drain ;). Shhh...I do those things in my house. I was just never allowed to them growing up :D

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  5. Oh boy. Middle is starting with violin at school this year. Hope I can be a good home mentor just like you. I hope that both your kiddos will stick with it and enjoy doing it! :)

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    1. Susi, I hope Middle enjoys the violin! Having help at home is great for kids, although that dual role of mommy and mentor is quite a difficult one, I think. Best wishes to you both! No complaints from the kiddos here yet, so there's hope they'll stick with it! Thank you!

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  6. Sweet! I'm from a family of musicians. My parents were both blessed, then the first daughter grabbed all the musical talent and kept it for herself. Yet, daughter #2 decided to become a violinist (it was a horrible experience for the entire family) then #3 and I (#4) were enrolled in private piano lessons. A disaster. I have no ear whatsoever... I admire those who do. Nice story - and kudos on the mommy magic!

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Marie Nicole! I do, too, admire those who have a talent for music. I didn't have music lessons as a child for very long, so it's not really a part of me. As for Mommy Magic, it helps, when I remember it and have the patience to use it. =)

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  7. I love how you were able to comfort your son and ease his frustration. It's a great feeling when it actually works, isn't it?

    My older son is starting to play clarinet this year. I don't know how long he'll stick with it, but I think learning music is a worthwhile experience.

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    1. Yes, Janna, I agree. Learning music is like learning a foreign language, almost, so it makes the brain both more creative and analytical, even though they seem opposites of each other. Good luck with your son and clarinet! It's always worthwhile to try something to see if there's interest!

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  8. Mommy magic is the absolute best. I sometimes still need it from my own Mommy. I also feel your pain with violinx2.

    I had pianox2, choirx2, and vocalx2. We also did saxophone, drums, acoustic guitar and theatre. Luckily those were individual choices. You would think I had a lot of kids but I just have the two. We initially started with piano so they would learn to read music, therefore assisting their brains with math and science.

    While daughter number one rarely plays any instruments any more, she does still sing and daughter number two still plays and composes her own music as well.

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    1. Wow! That's a lot of 'double the pleasure, double the fun'! We've only had violin x2. Well, gymnastics x2 and swimming x2 as well, but those were short term.

      It is nice that your daughters still enjoy music in their own ways. It definitely is something they internalize and no one can take away! =)

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  9. Congratulations! How nice that both of your children are interested to play the violin.

    Kudos for the nice handling of your son's frustration. I should keep that in mind when my son gets frustrated with his composition lessons. When that happens, we almost always have a battle royale.

    I can understand the difficulty with being an adult violin learner. Not only are our fingers less dextrous, we are also more self conscious especially with our mistakes - at least I am speaking for myself. To this day, I am frustrated that I cannot play (or practice) as much as I should but there are just more pressing matters to do.

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    1. Yes, frustration gets the better of us, children or adult alike! And patience is usually nowhere to be found during these times... I even surprised myself here so I had to write about it.

      As for playing the violin as an adult, do you know that it took me an entire year of playing to relax my bow hold? My right hand would literally go numb and fall asleep from the grip, and I just couldn't help it! I wish I had more time to practice--it's almost non-existent nowadays. Maybe I'll start up again with DS? Thank you for stopping by, Imelda!

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