Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Dear Daughter Heartache


Dear Daughter Heartache,

You are the moment that I have been waiting for--or rather, have not wanted to ever occur--for the last five years.  And so the story begins, from the heartache of a grief-stricken mama...

I have often joked about going to Dear Daughter's violin performances with extra antiperspirant and anti-anxiety med.  Except I wasn't joking.  DD has a personality that can be an enemy to herself.  Dear Husband and I never wanted her to perform well so that we can feel proud of her--we already are.  We wanted her to meet her own high standards so that she wouldn't have a breakdown because she didn't do well.  Stumbling on notes or forgetting parts of a piece would be catastrophic to her ambitious self, and we knew that well.  Inevitably, that time was due. 

It's times like this that I wish my kiddos could make mistakes on stage, but then bow and smile and carry on with the day. 

On Sunday, DD went up on stage to perform her 10th solo violin recital.  (She has been playing violin for five years, since she was five-years-old, and her music school does two group concerts and two solo recitals a year, each in the fall and in the spring.)  What the audience saw that day was a good performance of a rather short piece.  What they didn't know was that DD's nerves made her stumble on a few notes, and she accidentally skipped a large portion of the piece.  The piano accompanist made that transition seamlessly, but I saw the panic in her eyes.  She finished the piece, took her bow, came down the stage, sat next to me, and started to cry.

Dear Son went up next, and stumbled on a few notes on his piece as well, but he kept going, and finished his piece.  You see, that's what we had been telling the kiddos: if you mess up, just keep going; the accompanist will follow you and everything will be fine.  Somehow, I never saw that coming: I never saw that the two similar parts of the piece would be a reason for DD to accidentally join the parts out of order.  So in a panic, she did what she was told: keep going and finish the piece.

However, what she skipped over was the most brilliant part of the piece that she worked really, really hard to master.  Four weeks ago, we weren't even sure if she was actually ready to play this piece for the solo concert.  But because she wanted to play this particular Vivaldi piece, she put in extra effort to get ready.  She played this piece every single day for over five weeks.  She got ready, and knew the music really well.  I was right there with her for the practices, going over notes, bowings, dynamics, rhythms, the works.  We even got an app to slow down the music to listen and play along at a more reasonable speed.  She knew her piece well. 

Her silent sobbing next to me broke my heart.  Because I knew exactly how she felt.  We skidaddled out of the church as soon as the concert was over for her sake, and she didn't even make it into the car before she started full-body crying.  She was heartbroken.  We tried to tell her comforting words, such as the fact that most people in the audience probably didn't even know about the mistake, but the more we talked, the more she cried.  So we gave her some time to calm down.  When she got out of the car, I stood there waiting to envelope her in a huge Mama Hug.  The kind that says I love you more than life itself no matter what.  The kind that I hoped would relieve her of some of her disappointment, frustration, and sadness.  The kind that this Mama really needed herself, too.  If I could, I would have stood there to squeeze out every ounce of her pain so that she would feel better instantly.

But of course, these things take time.  We talked a little more--mama-to-daughter talk--after we went home.  We hugged a little more on the couch, and I wiped her tears that kept falling because her tiny heart was soaked with disappointment.  I tried to do the right thing, all the while her violin music kept overflowing in my head and I couldn't shut it out (well, I had been hearing it everyday for the last umpteen days).  I couldn't stop thinking about how it could have been different, how it could have been salvaged, or how it could have been prevented.  But it couldn't have been.  No matter how hard I thought about it.

DH said that this was inevitable, as it's likely that every musician has had at least one such moment in life--this just happened to be the first for DD.  Given the time she has been doing these performances to the genes that we've passed down to her, it was bound to happen.  This is where Parent Guilt becomes overwhelming--because I always ask myself what I could have done differently.  Could it be that I didn't tell her enough that I'm so proud of her for going on that stage to play for an entire audience?  Could it be that I needed to tell her more reassuring words just before the concert?  Could it be that my own nerves made her crumble?

Finally, it occurred to me that this could one day be viewed as a good thing, sometime down the line, years from now.  If we could use this Fall--however giant it seems now, but one that will diminish in time--as an experience to build upon, it could serve as a foundation for DD to learn how to recover from such accidents, shocks, or disappointment.  Goodness knows that there will be more of these Falls in life, much to the chagrin of my fragile Mama Heart.

We eventually went out to have a quick dinner.  DD was a little better by then.  Before we left the restaurant, she suddenly and out of nowhere blurted to me, "I love you, mama."  Oh, my heart was so surprised and bursting that I fumbled some nonsense words like "I love you a billionth infinity" in order to discreetly blink away the mist in my eyes.  Of course, I had to say the exact same thing to DS, too, lest I want to hear some high-pitched screeching in public. 

Later at night, DD was able to communicate to me that she was upset because she thought she didn't do a good job, and that she had practiced so much for this piece.  I hear you, baby, I hear you.  I told her that she did do a good job, because I heard it every single day in her practices.  Her teacher, the piano accompanist, and we all know that she is capable of playing this piece well.  I told her that next time we would have strategies to combat easy mistakes such as this, and that if anything, she could just play it over from any one spot and the accompanist would follow her.  She went to bed smiling, and that's all I really needed to see by nightfall.

Kids are resilient.  DD is mostly over this shock to her system.  Mamas?  Not so much.  I still have a little ways to go to feel better about all this, but writing this down has helped tremendously.  But I did find a silver lining in this difficult event: DD was sure that she did not wish to stop playing violin or wish to cease performing on stage because of this experience.  So I think she will be okay.

One has to fall in order to learn the strength it takes to get back up.  DD has gotten back up, and I need to find her courage to follow suit.  Twenty-four hours after the "tragedy," DD was humming the tune to her piece cuz she was in a good mood.  That girl. 

So, Dear Daughter Heartache, you've abruptly made your presence, but I hope that we've dealt with you in the best way possible for DD.  I know you'll visit again later, but hopefully we'll know better how to rebound.  You're no fun, but an inevitable part of life.  See ya later, alligator.

Oh, and have I mentioned how *incredibly proud* I am of DD and her musical accomplishments?  

Sincerely,
Me


22 comments:

  1. Wow, just wow. So much of our lives and hearts are in music and the expression of it. I would not worry about this at all, in fact I would take this as a testament to the strength of your parenting. The "I love you, mama" and the fact that she saw you were there for her no matter what is what I took from this experience.
    I have seen this happen - at a recital, a child made mistakes - the mom scolded her openly in front of the audience and teacher and shamed her. The mom was taken aside later and scolded by the teacher but damage was done. Irreparable. Mistakes always happen not just in music but in life, it's how we deal with them and work through them that matters and your parenting here - and your openness to help her choose another instrument if she wants (which thankfully she doesn't!) is so admirable.
    With my kids, the make mistakes - luckily, luckily - for some reason (I think their temperament) - they are able to brush it off. But when I was a kid I was more like your daughter - I would always make mistakes due to nerves during a performance and it gutted me. I did not have a close relationship w. my mother like your daughter does with you to help get me through it.
    You are doing just fine.
    It's all about love and joy, otherwise why would we bother? You are doing great. (-: PS: That Vivaldi piece is TOUGH!

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    1. Ado, thank you so much for taking the time to read this! I know she got the nerves from my genes, and I'm quite sorry about that :) It was a tough, tough day.

      I didn't actually offer for her to choose another instrument--I just was afraid that she'd just give up violin all together because of this crash. I guess she has invested so much in it and really does like playing it to not quit. (She will join 5th grade band and play a new instrument, though, so that will be fun, too!)

      I was surprised at how quickly she bounced back, as I'm still feeling the remaining ripples of it myself. Hopefully all the hugging and all the comforting made that possible. Isn't it true that our children's pain seems even worse than our own? (That Vivaldi piece IS tough! Just that she can play it is already incredible to me.)

      Again, thank you, Ado--I knew that you could probably relate to this "incident" one way or another. Maybe since I've met my worst fear, it can only get better from this point on. I very much appreciate your words!

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  2. Have you ever read "Helping Parents Practice" by Edmund Sprunger? I think it was there that I learned a really helpful tip: between the ages of 9 and 12 there will come a time when your child wants to quit the violin. Your job as a parent is to help them stay connected and dedicated through that time so they get to the other side.
    That really helped me, although thankfully no one has asked to quit yet.
    Also - take heart, I think being a violin parent makes parenting which is hard enough in itself - even harder. I struggle with it almost daily. Last night there were tears and stuff at Ella's practice and I didn't handle it so well. But today is another day!

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    1. No, I haven't, and I'll have to get that. Thankfully, I haven't heard that big Q word yet, and our daily practices have become so routine that the kiddos "just do it." In fact, I think they really like it. But the parenting part of it--what a struggle. But we, too, learn as we go, so it's a concerted effort which makes our relationships with our children all the richer (and sometimes more rewarding, or tearful, depending on the day...)! Yes, today is another day, and Imma go look for that book NOW! Thanks again!

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  3. Congrats to DD for only having one of these missteps in her career performing recitals! I played once in front of a crowd and had music in front of me, so I can't imagine what it's like to have to memorize something! It's a shame that she didn't get to play the most "exciting" part of the piece for the audience, but like you reassured her, you heard it during her practices and you know she did it well. I'm glad DD has already bounced back from the disappointment and hasn't wanted to give up the violin. I'm sure you had a big hand in teaching her to get back up and not give up. Pat yourself on the back!

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    1. Thanks, Lisa! DD has had mistakes here and there before, but this was a bigger misstep in her mind. She had practiced so much for it--but it really was a very hard piece. I just felt so badly for my poor girl. She is hard on herself, so we definitely don't need to add to that. DS is the same way, so I'm sure we'll have to cross the same path with him. In fact, I was more worried about him for this recital, so I feel like I may have neglected to boost DD more. But she's all better now. Thanks for reading and for your kind words!!

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  4. So proud of how your daughter handled this - it IS a huge disappointment for her (she worked so hard on it) but she held herself together on stage and then went to her loving family to express her feelings. You are a wonderful mamma with a wonderful girl.

    Now, to make you laugh and to make your DD feel better and proud of continuing on and handling this like a pro:
    When I was little I took piano lessons. We had one major concert every year. This was my first concert and I was excited. But very nervous. The audience is full of all the parents and siblings of the students sitting in rows in the living room of the teacher's house. One child goes...clap, clap. Another child...clap, clap. My turn - I begin beautifully, then I miss a note. Instead of continuing like any normal person would, I stop, mid piece, put the back of my hand to my forehead all dramatic like saying, "I can't go on!" and bang my forehead onto the piano keys making a loud clooooong sound. I then proceed to cry and leave the "stage". I did get back out there and finish the piece, but OMG, how embarrassing! Til this day, my family has not let me live the moment down.

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    1. Cindy, you are awesome. That is just the cutest story, and I can totally picture it. You must have been very little? Little girls and drama are two peas in a pod! I am going to share your story and all your wonderful words with DD. :)

      I have *never* been good at being in the spotlight. I despised public speaking even to this day. I am the quietest in meetings, because the adrenaline that it takes to make me raise my hand and say something in front of a large audience is enough to keep me mum. So that DD can do what she does is already so amazing to me. Some people are just not performing material, and I hope that she will continue, although we'd never make her should she really want to stop. I know some parents will read this and totally not "get" the devastation of that day, perhaps because their children have different temperaments, but it was very real and hard.

      Thank you, as always, for your kind words, Cindy. We have lesson today and we'll see the other parents/students. Crossing my fingers for a non-eventful afternoon. :)

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    2. I hope your afternoon was non-eventful :) And please do share this story with DD, but make sure you do the overly dramatic hand to the head, "I CAN'T GO ON" and head bang into the piano keys. It's not as funny if you don't. Love to you and DD.

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    3. You know what, Cindy? We went to class, and the accompanist (also head of the school) came up to DD and said that she LOVES to accompany her, and that it takes more skill to find a way out of a mistake than to play a perfect piece, and all sorts of other really nice things to her. I was near tears. I thanked her later, because DD said to me just moments later, "Mama, I feel better now." More ppl we talked to said that they didn't even know what happened at all. We haven't seen her teacher yet cuz he's been out of town, and I think he may tell her things along the same lines. The wound is healing, and we're all *better*. Today, I am going to tell her your story (with the drama, of course) and all the other kind words here in the comments. She will be really comforted.

      Thanks again, Cindy, for checking in. Much gratitude to you, friend!

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  5. Sandra, this sounds like a toughie. So hard to worry about our littles when they are so invested in something. We always Hurt more than they do, don't we?

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    1. Yes, Susi, it was really tough. It's so hard to watch your child hurt! I'd describe her pain as an acute, raw pain (with the tears and the works), and my pain (parental) as a deep, dull, chronic pain. Either way, the pain is yucky. Luckily most of it is gone by now. Thanks so much for stopping by to offer some comfort!

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  6. Oh, I almost cried reading this. I think she did handle it well. She played what her mind would let her remember and took her bow.

    I can relate to the disappointment. I played clarinet and would practice and practice. I knew the music inside and out but when it came to competitions or performances, I'd freeze because I was also extremely shy, so just knowing people were looking at me would unnerve me. The first solo I did was horrible. I played it twice as fast as I should have and was so nervous I don't even remember it. I didn't score well and felt awful because I knew the song well.

    Your support has undoubtedly helped her. (Great job for how you handled that!) I hope she is able to let the experience go so it doesn't hold her back next time.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your experience, Janna! I am and was exactly the same way, too. Although I cannot remember musical performances when I was young (I only had the opportunity to take piano for 9 months), but I do remember the nerves I had during any speech tournaments or public speaking occasions. It was so hard to hold myself together with a million eyes set on me. And it's so hard to accept the fact that you could have done really well without those eyes because you "knew your stuff." There may be other opportunities where DD can play this piece again, and I, too, hope that she won't let this Fall hold her back.

      Thank you for your continued support here, Janna. I treasure your words because I spilled my heart out on this one. :)

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  7. My heart goes out to your daughter. By now, and because of your handling, she already knows that it is ok to make these mistakes, painful, but they will turn out ok. She may have fumbled in her recital but she learned that her parents are there when she gets hurt and disappointed. That is the most important part - she will encounter more heartaches as she goes along, but the love of her parents will sustain her. :-)

    One day, while I was watching a piano performance in Youtube, the artist, Valentina Lisitsa, explained the odd extra black keys in a particular piano style she was working with. The piano had more keys than the usual ones. It turned out that when the same piano (with the usual key color pattern) was presented to a seasoned pianist, the latter, to his horror and anger, fumbled in his performance all because he was not familiar with the instrument.

    All I am saying is - bad days happen even to the best of the lot. :-)

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    1. Thank you, Imelda. We told the kiddos about five times each that "it's okay if you mess up on stage." But there is what we say and there is what they feel. DS stumbled a little but didn't lose his place, so that was good. DD just couldn't reconcile my words against her feelings right away. I really appreciate what you wrote, because I don't think about this situation like an objective person looking from the outside. So, thank you--it means a lot to me.

      Yes, bad days happen even to the best of the lot. Hopefully sunshine will follow shortly! :)

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  8. I am totally a victim of stage fright and the tears that follow! Embarrassing moments, mean friends, broken hearts and a lack of perfection where practice and commitment to the activity almost guaranteed it, mistakes both benign and serious....these are the painful aches that we continue to endure until forever as parents!

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    1. Yes, Helen--we went through it, now we watch our kiddos go through it. I really hope that this can show the kiddos that even if it feels like rock bottom, it *always* gets better. Always. Thanks for reading, my friend!

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  9. So many things come to mind as I read this post. Oh, how heartbreaking it is to experience our children's sadness when they stumble. But, I guess I would then ask, what would we do if our children never stumbled? If we really were able to shield them for all forms of heartbreak? They would enter their adult lives not knowing how to cope. Not having the resources to bounce back. And, not truly knowing how to celebrate accomplishments, because they had never experienced failure. It is happening before our very eyes, a direct result of unhealthy helicopter parenting. So, while it will always be heartbreaking to see our children stumble, as DH and you already seem to know, it will surely result in a strength that otherwise would not exist.

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    1. You are absolutely right, Nilsa, and that's why I *could* see this as a good thing, although probably when the wound isn't so raw. I watched the video of her performance for the first time today, more than a week later. It was hard to watch, and I thought she really held herself up well. I know that failures are a sure part of life, and they have their own importance in the Grand Scheme of Things, too. Thank you so much for your kind words of wisdom. This Parenting thing is a toughie. :)

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  10. Aww..I'm so sorry. Poor girl. But she handled it like a pro. Good thing she has you there for the support that she needs.

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    1. Hi, Asianmommy! I think she did do her best just after she realized what had happened. And we did our best to provide the comfort she needed to get over this. Thank you for the support!

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