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