[Private journal entry written on Friday, June 8, 2012 about an email I sent to my therapist – continued from the previous post]
While I don’t have experience as a parent and can’t very well hand out parenting advice, I do have experience being a little girl who believes she is disgusting and worthless . . . a little girl looking for someone – anyone – to love and accept and value her . . .
So, I did my best to be her voice in this conversation with her dad. I told him that I believed that part of the issue was (as he had already stated) that she wasn’t putting forth the required effort . . . but that – based upon my gut feeling and experience – the more significant issue is confidence – more specifically, the lack of it. I told him that it is reasonable for her to be overwhelmed with something as challenging as learning to play an instrument. I told him how I’ve had to encourage her A LOT to just get her to try something simple on the piano.
I told him that this was really bigger than piano lessons . . . that she was developing a habit of believing she is not capable of doing anything . . . and I told him that was a habit we don’t want to allow to get started . . . that she deserved for us to fight alongside her to help her through whatever was keeping her from believing in herself . . . that she needs people to stick with her, to hang out with her in the trenches as she learns how to believe in herself . . .
He agreed that he didn’t want that habit to get engrained . . . but he countered that she wasn’t willing to put in the effort . . . and that she needed to learn how to do the work, to just buckle down . . . that maybe he needed to be tougher on her . . .
I said, “But she is a little girl just trying to find her way through this jungle of life . . . just like the rest of us are . . . but she’s trying to do it without the life skills, maturity and brain development that we adults have . . . and, I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult sometimes to find my way, even as an adult . . . maybe we need to stand with her and teach her how to push through . . . encourage her . . . give her space to make lots of mistakes . . . assure her that she is still a really cool kid, even when she is acting like normal 11-year-old acts . . .
Of course . . . as I was saying all that . . . I got all emotional . . . and cried . . .
So, I followed up with, “I’m emotional because I really care about these kids . . . they are human beings and they deserve compassionate encouragement . . . they deserve the space to be kids . . . you know . . . they are just little kids, after all . . . “
He got very quiet . . . after some thought, he said that maybe he could create a more compassionate environment around her . . . but he felt that she really didn’t want to have anything to do with him, so maybe it was too late for him to impact the situation . . . I assured him that, while it wasn’t “cool” for an 11-year-old girl to need her dad, that she really did need him . . . she needs his approval and encouragement and love . . . more now than ever . . .
Then he looked at me and said, “You’re making a lot of good points. But, I can’t ask you to put up with all of this drama . . . it’s your job to teach piano, not to deal with my kid’s drama . . . “
I responded, “Well, I respectfully disagree. I believe I can sometimes make a significant difference in the lives of these kids. And, sometimes that involves more than just piano lessons — and that is okay with me. All people come to piano lessons with their own needs and issues and fears – and that is because we are all human beings. We deserve the space to have needs and issues and fears, especially when we are learning to do something as scary as learning to play the piano.
“I really like your daughter and I want to continue working with her. I would like at least two more lessons with her to help develop some basic skills so that she will have the confidence to practice on her own. I think she is just too overwhelmed right now . . . but I think I can give her some basic skills within the next two lessons. After that, I would expect her to practice, and I can ask/require that of her. But, I need a little more time with her first to help her develop some confidence. Are you willing to give her that time and space?”
He said (rather softly), “I can see that you really care about your students . . . that you are very invested in them. And, thank you for caring so much about my daughter. That means a lot to me. I really want her to find a passion, I want her to excel at something . . . I want her to feel good about herself . . . and if that “something” is piano, then great . . . if it is something else, then great . . . I just want her to be happy . . . I’m happy to throw all kinds of time and money at something that lights that fire in her; so, yes, I can give her that time and space. And, I can be gentler in my interaction with her.”
I told him that I care because I had a “bit of a rough childhood” and that it is easy for me to relate to the kids, especially ones like his daughter who are really struggling.
So . . . that is how we left things. He walked out the door . . . and as soon as I heard the door click, I allowed the sobs to take over my body. I felt as if I had just stood up to my dad . . . in a way that honored my value as a person but that also honored where he had been in his journey . . . as I think this guy shares a lot of minds sets and behaviors with my dad. At least, it sure felt like I was talking to an incarnation of my dad.
Then, a minute later, I heard the door open again . . . and I grabbed a tissue and tried to mop up some of the tears . . . it was the daughter . . . she didn’t say a word, she just walked over and gave me a hug. Then, I looked her straight in the eye and said, “I care about you . . . I really care about you . . . you can do this . . . you have so much talent and you are smart . . . you can do this . . . you can do some really neat stuff on the piano . . . I believe in you . . . I just need for you to do some practicing on your own so you can develop the skills . . . I know it is challenging, but we will find a way through this together. You can do this!” She looked me straight in the eye and nodded her head. I gave her another big hug (more tears), then she turned and walked away.
Maybe she won’t forget that interaction . . . maybe it will make a difference in her life.
I sat in the silent studio for another 30 minutes, just allowing myself to absorb and process everything . . . and to cry some more. Before I left, I stood in front of the mirror and said to myself (and to my dad) some of the things I had said to this guy . . . that I had been just a little girl trying to find my way through . . . that I deserved to have someone fighting alongside me to help me find my way through the tough stuff, that I deserved compassion . . .
Phew . . . and now I’m crying again as I write this . . . phew!
Okay . . . later . . . thanks for allowing me to share!