Thursday, March 25, 2010

why there is pride in choking it...

Juliet came to my twitty rescue when I tweeted about neglecting my blog and I couldn't be more thrilled and grateful. She's a wonderful and thoughtful writer and you should definitely be checking out her blogs: The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah Self & Thanksgiving Feast.


Our seven year old, Eva, choked at her violin recital. I could not have been happier.

Eva is one of those people for whom things come easily. She knows all the spelling words before the teacher hands out the list. She memorized times tables without having to use flashcards.

Along came violin. It has rocked her world.

Violin is hard. There’s no two ways about it. I don’t think I fully appreciated how technically difficult an instrument it is before Eva began lessons. There are no “cheats” in violin. Her teacher embraces nerdy violin humor, Star Wars quotes, and a no-shortcuts approach.

In short, violin challenges Eva daily. It pushes her into what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as the optimum autotelic experience: the golden flow zone where the levels of both challenge and skill are high.

When you challenge yourself, you are bound to fall down some of the time.

As I stood in the corner of Library Room B, videotaping Eva playing one of the eleventy seven versions of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star that Suzuki children learn, my heart sunk a little for her as she stumbled, tried to recover, stumbled again, then stopped.

“Whatever you do, just keep on going.” It’s the golden rule of all performances and recitals. Nothing is worse than that embarrassed, awkward silence: the throats clearing, the programs rustling, while the child’s cheeks grow redder and hotter.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity but in reality was only a few seconds, Eva signaled to the accompanist and played the last few notes.

She was as poised as a disappointed seven year old could be, and she’ll be even more poised next time it happens. There will be a next time because her teacher, in his infinite wisdom, sets a high bar. I hire him to do it because as her parent, I don’t always have the heart to watch her fail, even when I know she learns way more from recovering from mistakes than she does from cruising along on autopilot.

It took her a month to finally feel ready to watch the video to analyze what she did wrong. And there were a few tears as we ate our celebratory frozen yogurts that afternoon. But I think she really believed us when we told her we could not have been more proud.

Got a super successful, bright child? I recommend setting high standards in a safe environment, and letting her choke now and then. It’s the ultimate growth experience.

Juliet also tweets at @batmitzvahat40.


Shayna said...

I'm a former violinist (also at age 9)... I think the world regrets my mother letting me take it up - I am a decent pianist, but the violin...oh, yes, difficult is an understatement! You are smart though to let her stretch and reach - as an adult now I'm so grateful that my parents let me do the same!

You can find me at

Neil said...

I don't think I ever read a parenting blog where the parent was relieved that her child didn't do something perfectly. I think you just saved your daughter a whole lot of money from therapy when she is older.

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