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Friday, October 14, 2011

Tiger momming

Cora's been taking violin for about two months now. She's still very enthusiastic about it, but damnation, some days it is just plain hard. It's really our biggest struggle as parent and child, and she is just as damn stubborn as I am. She's pulling the passive resistance bullshit, and it is about all I can do to not throttle the child some days. While being Mini Me has its advantages, because I know exactly her motivation, it also has its disadvantages, because I know exactly her motivation. Ugh. Only *I'm* allowed to be this infuriating, dammit.

When that whole Tiger Mom book came out with that ivy league law professor who stood over her children with a cattle prod to make them practice piano and do their homework and make sure they never have a single moment of fun ever, I remember thinking, shit, is it that important the kid never slacks off, ever? Is being The Best at the detriment of everything else in childhood necessary? I mean, it's important to push your kids to challenge themselves and to do their best, but I don't want to be as tough on my kids as my mom was on me. And it's weird. My mom never really "pushed" me, and took very little interest in my actual work, but it was more just general disapproval. Just like Cora, I'm a people-pleaser. I want approval. I never got it. I got "Only an A? How come you didn't get an A+?" And of course, "Next year is going to be a lot harder than this year was. You won't get good grades next year." I never got money with a good report card, or bragging phone calls to grandparents. "Just, huh, an A minus in math. You should have tried harder." Blah. Fortunately, I was motivated by a desire to get the fuck out of dodge and make something of myself. Not that either actually happened, since I'm still in dodge (or 10 miles north of it), and I don't think "underemployed lawyer" is much of anything. Double blah.

But I'm trying to balance the whole "Tiger mom" thing out. While I want Cora to work hard at the violin, I also don't want her to be miserable. I want her to continue enjoying it and being excited about it. Even if she doesn't make a career of it, even if she never plays in an orchestra or in front of an audience, I want her to enjoy her instrument. I want her to experience the beauty of creating music, of challenging herself to play a more difficult piece of music and the satisfaction of mastering it.

So on nights like last night, where she refuses to even get into play position, I just don't know what to do. We have the rule that if she isn't finished with practicing by 8:30, she can't watch the episode of Dora. And if during the lesson, she starts goofing off and won't do it, if I tell her, okay, but we can't watch Dora, it just makes things worse and she starts pouting and crying. I even try to mix it up and make it a little different each time, but it doesn't help. But, I dunno, then sometimes it just clicks. Last night, after having a massive fight about stepping into play position (spreading her legs out), something very simple and she knows exactly how to do, she buckled down and breezed through the practice and mastered something new (this "monkey" song that is essentially playing a scale). I don't understand it, but hey, it works. And she was so proud of herself and I was so proud of her, and I gave her a cookie afterward and we watched Dora, and all was right in the world. Ten minutes after spending fifteen minutes staring at me blankly and refusing to move her feet, and crying every time I told her she'd run out of time to watch Dora if she didn't do it.

Oh well. This is why we're paying a professional instead of me trying to teach her. It's hard enough getting her to practice some days.

1 comment:

ruby falls said...

We're probably going to start Luli on violin within the next year. K takes lessons already -- for him, motivation came in the form of a pretty, funny teacher with a cool dog. K is 12. I still actually have to peek in while he practices so he doesn't loll around half-assing 'turkey in the straw' for the one millionth time. We joke about Tiger Mom; he cowers and faux-weeps while I shout "FOUR MORE HOURS!!!"