Monday, April 22, 2013

Broken Violins and Practicing What we Preach

Last week Owen hopped into the van after kindergarten and asked with dread in his voice, "We have violin practice right?"
"Yes, we have to practice." I replied.
"Whhhhhhyyyyyy?" he continued to moan/complain/ask.
"Because you have a talent and that's what God expects us to do is practice things that we're good at." (This is one of my traditional answers to this question.)
"I wish I didn't have this talent. I hate the violin. I hate to practice. I wish my violin would just break."
And then it did.
He didn't mean to do it, but he opened his case and then lifted the whole case up to try and move another violin off the couch (those things are just lying around everywhere in our house!) and in his attempt, his case slipped out of his hands and fell on the floor and the violin fell out and the scroll was cracked right off the finger board.
If you've never seen a violin broken like this, it's pretty sad to see. It's especially sad when I took it to the violin store to find out that the repair cost is more than the cost of buying a whole new violin--which is what I had to do of course. This time though, I bought one with a two year warranty.
Derek said that honestly he was certain that in the course of Owen's violin journey he was certain we'd have a broken violin, so he was much more calm about it than I felt.

Violin with Owen is a very tricky experience. He has been so much more distracted than Ryanna. He rarely looks at the teacher and he assumes that he should play every song perfectly from the first time he attempts to make it come to life. However, I wonder how much of his experience is more frustrating because I'm a harder teacher on him than I was on Ryanna. With Ryanna I was learning everything for the first time just like she was. With Owen I know all of these songs and I can offer him critique on dynamics and correct hold and other things I didn't know with Ryanna. But, this instrument is a very frustrating instrument for anyone to learn.
It's very interesting how Ryanna, who is much more laid back than Owen--much less detail oriented than her brother, could have an easier time learning such a detail intense instrument. I don't mean easier in that she's been faster, because he's been much faster than she was, but he's had many more tears and fits than she ever had. It makes me see the parts of myself that I appreciate and dislike all at the same time.
Ryanna has been playing violin now for almost 7 years. That's a lot of time (and our money) dedicated to this instrument. She still doesn't love to practice, but I'm noticing difference in our approach as she progresses further and further. I can't play every piece with her. I can only play parts of all the songs she knows. She's also always learning supplemental pieces which I find very, very tricky and incredibly hard to follow. I find myself shying away from these hard songs and telling myself, "Well, I don't have the time to do it," and I really do slow her way down now if I try to learn the songs with her, but it makes me sad at the same time to think I can't play everything with her.
Even through this hard journey to get her here was filled with lots of frustration on both of our parts, we've finally reached the point where practicing with her for the last couple years has been something I find really fun. There in lies the difference between us: I hate those new, hard songs that really make my eyes cross and my mind cringe and she loves them. She loves the challenge of it all. It makes me feel a bit guilty and lazy all at the same time. I do realize though that I would have to practice by myself for an hour a day (at least!) to be able to try and keep up with her. I don't think I have that time right now, so I have to take what I can get in playing review pieces with her.
Practicing with Owen is a totally different experience. I have to constantly remind him to look at his instrument (neither of my kids like to do this for some reason). I have to be completely calm because I know that he is going to likely have a breakdown at least a couple times each lesson. I have to praise him like crazy for the good things he does--which I like to do anyway because I too am a personality who feeds off of praise, so I recognize the need in my son. I also have to issue threats and promise rewards with each lesson we go to. It's really a totally and completely different violin experience with this child.
So, it's about time we start Eli on and instrument and I feel myself pulling back and wondering what to do. I don't think I want to do violin again and I think Eli might benefit from having his own thing. I'm thinking doing the piano for him, but I haven't completely done anything about it yet. Of course the two violin players are ready to quit and plunge head first into piano lessons and I've told them they are definitely welcome to add lessons taught by Eli to their practice schedule.
I guess I'm wondering if I have it in ME to try to learn another instrument? As I told Owen, "When God gives you a talent He places expectations on you." So, do I admit to having a talent and then own up to trying to improve my talent? I always tell people I can only play what Ryanna can play, but not nearly as well as she can play it and that's completely true, but I probably play at an okay level, certainly nothing amazing. At what point do I say, "Not now." I get there are seasons in life and we have commitments that pull us in all different directions. But, there's a mom who takes lessons from my kids' teacher and I have to confess I wish that was me. Isn't that bizarre? I wish I was like her and felt I had the time to improve this skill. But at the same time I find myself being really glad it isn't me because I don't want to be pushed too much. This is a total surprise to everyone, but I think I'm a little bit controlling really. I don't have the time right now and I worry about what I would then feel the need to do with the skill anyway. Is it enough to learn to play just because you like to hear it in your own home and it feels a bit challenging--like a math problem--to read those notes and balance everything?
And, like Owen, I'm sure that going to lessons would be very challenging for me--I would expect to play it perfectly for the teacher and I never probably would be able to and then I'd be embarrassed and frustrated with myself. I wish I could figure out a way to let go and at the same time push hard. Something I'm fairly certain that I struggle with in every area of my life.


Devin said...

I understand. Great 2-word blanket statement there, probably not true for the most part... I haven't played the piano in years after years of playing, but sounds like I better pick it up again. Loved the post!

rachel said...

This is so true! Hypocrisy runs through my veins when I tell the boys to practice the piano. I took piano lessons forever but never sounded really good and have really not a whole lot to show for it besides impatience for my own imperfections. Isn't it hard to be patient with yourself? I feel like it's even more difficult to realize the lessons of patience, long suffering, persuasion, etc. etc. that you have gained. Great post!

Kim said...

Piano is a great way to go. No surprise that I'd say that, though! We struggle with practicing in our house, too, maybe even more so because I teach it. I've had to put the kids in lessons with other teachers to get anything accomplished, and I find it difficult to balance between encouraging the talent that they have without pushing them in to something they aren't interested in. But, as I tell my kids, they will thank me one day. Jon is always telling me I need to teach him. Although, learning to play the piano can be a curse later on! I think out of the last 15 years, I have spent about 12 of those in piano related callings. Sometimes it is nice for people to recognize that you can do other things, too. Good luck!

DKAZ said...

I can so relate. I took lessons so I know a little bit, but the level Quinn is getting to requires me to pay a lot of attention if I want to be any help to her. She is right on the cusp of being able to practice on her own and have it be good quality practice. But she is still so easily distracted that I feel it's better to sit and practice with her. Aug is a completely different animal when it comes to everything having to do with work, or lists, or practice. He just does it. But he like Owen is very frustrated when it's not perfect the first time...and it just about kills him to work on a piece for more than one week.
And lastly, what to do with number three! I am honestly thinking of something along the lines of dance or gymnastics. She is the type that will throw books across the room if I make her sit to long! Keep us posted and until then good luck! You're a good Mom!