Monday, March 19, 2012

A gift or just the infinite capacity for taking pains?

Patrick and I go through the often painful routine of practicing piano throughout the week. New material is a b*&#$. I am hard and impatient with him. And he often times ends up frustrated and defeated. Tiger Mom to the tee! But after the first knock down drag out struggle of lectures and time outs for not trying we begin to make some real progress. I am always saying something like:

"All things are difficult before they are easy."
Thomas Fuller

Warning: diversion. When I was a kid, I hated practicing anything. And even now I beat myself up as an adult for not just being a genius, and awesome at at least one thing in my life. It could be music, parenting, patience, art. I honestly don't care what it is. I just want to be a natural at SOMETHING and not have to work at it. I found this quote the other night and maybe there is something to it. OK, so I am hoping there is something to it.

"Gift, like genius, I often think only means an infinite capacity for taking pains."  
Jane Ellice Hopkins

Patrick's piano teacher is terrific. She clearly recognizes both Patrick and my capacity for taking pains. She pushes him to do things most adults would never dream that a kid could do. It actually crosses her mind that a kid can compose an entire song on his own or that he can play elementary Mozart and Beethoven at the age of 7. There is no too young in her mind. I half think she must giggle to herself as we walk out the door as she silently whispers "Good luck with that. He he." Gabrielle's motto must go something like this:

"There is nothing like biting off more than you can chew and then chewing anyway."
Mark Burnett

The latest musical struggle happened this past week. We have a recital coming up the end of April. Aside from a really difficult Beethoven piece that is in the key of B flat(!) with accidentals galore, we are working on a 3 page duet. Justin and I agreed to play duets on a seasonally rotating schedule. He plays in the winter and I in the spring. Well I'm up. This duet has been difficult for both of us. (We used to play duets where he had the easy part and I the more difficult part. We now play at the same level and the day when we trade places completely is not far away.) No repeating parts and a melody that gets tossed back and forth between us. I have some experience in music but haven't taken piano lessons proper since I was maybe 12. (There I go. Making excuses) And naturally, he manages to figure out his part before I do my own. And then proceeds to ask if I would like for him to record his part so that I can practice to it. I agree that it would be helpful and then still can't do it with which he says, "Why don't you let me play it slower for you mom! Then maybe you can get it." Argh.

Last night we managed to pull off the first two pages of the duet. We cheered and laughed and hugged each other. I looked at that kid in the eyes and couldn't believe the sense of pride I had in his dedication, his patience with me and his ability to work hard and then experience the gratification that comes with major progress and success. He deserved an award. I wanted to give him a million rewards in that moment. And promised a special date once we are ready for the recital.

It's tough going and there are times that I wonder if I am helping him become a person of dedication, hard work and success or just tormenting his childhood. These are the moments where I think I can tell. His eyes did not convey the pride in making it through another practice or getting that much closer to off the hook on his progress. It was sheer pride in his own achievements. And as he plays his songs, swaying to the music that only a kid with a real appreciation for something beautiful, it's obvious that he's getting more out of this than what meets the eye. Here is a little taste of the fruit of our labor.

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