I’ve had that quote posted somewhere I could read it daily for the past ten years, at least. I struggle with this. I compare. I feel competitive. I believe I’m not good enough. And that insecurity brings out the ugliest in me.
Julia and Lucy performed in a recital at a nursing home recently as part of their summer piano curriculum.
“Julia will play The Happy Farmer,”‘ their piano teacher had told me on the phone the weekend before.
“Oh, not Minuet 1?” Minuet 1 is the most advanced song she’s mastered and, in fact, she’s just about nailed Minuet 2.
“No, she’ll play The Happy Farmer. And Lucy will play…we have a few playing Honeybee already…
“She could play Lightly Row,” I offered.
“Lucy will play Blueberry Popsicle Twinkle.”
“Sounds good,” I said cheerfully. But inside, I was not cheerful.
Inside, I was thinking about the fact that Lucy played Blueberry Popsicle Twinkle at the spring recital two years ago and everyone would think she hasn’t made any progress since then.
Inside, I was remembering the gut-punch that came at The Ribbon Festival the year another student asked Julia, “So what are you playing?” and when she answered, her mom said, “Oh, well….that’s okay.” Because, obviously, she hadn’t kept pace. She was only playing Musette. She wasn’t even in Book Two, yet! (At least that’s what I imagined them pointing out to each other on the way home in their car.)
I hate having those thoughts. I feel so small and petty when I think this way. (Does anyone else think this way? I’m not even sure which answer makes me feel better.) None of it matters. Someone will always play better and be more advanced than my girls are. And there will always be someone that isn’t where they are yet. Comparing just diminishes the hard work they’ve invested and love they’ve developed for piano. Learning and playing music isn’t about being the best – it’s about so much more. But here I was reducing it to a contest, as I do – not out loud, never out loud – but in my head.
Of course, I’ve learned to reel myself in, mostly because I don’t want to curse my kids with my competi-mom brain disease.
I know a little comparison can be good. Watching a friend excel can be good motivation to practice better or more often. And performing in front of an audience of other students and their families – people who truly understand and appreciate the effort and dedication mastering those songs requires – well, it’s a wonderful celebration of their progress.
I just wish I could walk on the middle ground from the get-go, instead of going off the deep end and exhausting myself swimming back to shore and finding it again.
I just want to be okay with things as they are instead of always, always pushing so frantically and desperately for better.