Saturday, March 5, 2011

Excellent, When Excellent Doesn't Really Mean Excellent

For the past few weeks, the kids have been getting ready for Spring Festival. That sounds like fun, doesn't it? Well, Festival is truly a misnomer. This perky name is used to cleverly disguise a morning spent in a waiting room while your children are whisked away to play memorized piano pieces for judges in some other classroom.

My attitude was lacking considering the rocky road we've travelled thus far to reach the competition. Morrigan was, unbeknownst to me, not practicing her duet for three weeks since she "hated it." When her lapse was discovered, along with the fact that neither of the kids seemed to really know any of their pieces, an onslaught of extra rehearsals, individual and group lessons ensued. Just this week, both girls have spent 3 1/2 hours with their teacher practicing. While I do appreciate her commitment, this has jacked up my week and had the girls in a state of open revolt.

But the "big" day finally arrived. Regardless of outcome, at least we were done. Maggie's duet partner has a conflict today so they are going to the make up day Monday so it was just me and Morrigan headed to the festival.

We drove out to Hollins in the rain where I, surprisingly, did not get lost and found the building with ease. Morrigan looked darling, having chosen her Easter dress for the occasion. These were the highlights. It was downhill from there. She came out looking glum and I asked her how she did. "Fine." she told me with a face that directly contradicted her response.

Turns out she received an "Excellent" on her solo and duet performances. And according to my tennis partner's daughter (who also received excellents) they are the grade equivalent of a B-. Seems Superior is what one wants. Personally, I don't much care. I want the girls to play piano in order to lead a richer, fuller existence. To be exposed to music. And I figure in real life, if you make a mistake while playing, most people won't notice anyway.

But this attitude was not shared by Morrigan, who burst into tears in the car ranting,"I never do well at anything. I got a stupid excellent when I wanted a superior. And I never do as well as Maggie. [Author's note: seeing as Maggie has not performed yet, I don't know how she can be so sure.] She gets ribbons in swimming. She'll get a superior." And on, and on.

Which leads me to a moment of parenting that sucks. I want to take her in my arms and tell her she did great and those judges didn't know what they were doing, no matter how untrue that is. Assure her she's just as good as Maggie no matter what she thinks, regardless of the veracity of the statement. But instead, I do what will make her a better person, no matter how much it hurts today.

I tell her that, while I don't care about the scores and am not comparing her to Maggie, if she wants to improve, there is only one route: practice more. That her ignoring her piece for three weeks, generally refusing the methods her teacher assigns and complete intolerance of the metronome all impacted her outcome. That her mediocre score was the result of her lackadaisical practice.

It was a long and tearful ride home. And I felt terribly mean.

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