At the moment I am learning to play the piano. Preparing for my Grade 1 exam involves learning some scales and broken chords plus three exam pieces. As I go through the pieces for my examiner one of the hardest things I have to learn is not to go back and try to fix my mistakes. When my fingers trip over the keys or fail to find the right note, the important thing is to go right on playing in time. Don’t go back and play that phrase again, even though you want the examiner to *know* that you know you made a mistake. Just keep playing.
My teacher insists that this skill, of just keeping the rhythm going, is an essential part of becoming a good piano player. When you’re accompanying another instrumentalist or singer, you have to keep up with them– you can’t go back and fix old problems. Moreover, your listeners are less likely to notice your mistake unless you make it glaringly obvious by repeating the phrase, albeit correctly. She said, “Part of becoming a good musician is learning to fudge through your mistakes!” Apparently even the best musicians do it.
Needless to say I spend many moments of my days fudging through parenting. With no music to follow and a perpetually random set of keys to play, it seems that getting through my parenting mistakes, and learning to let go of them, is part of the musicianship of being a mother. I wake up in a good mood, but then one of the children follows me around and asks one too many things before I’ve even had a cup of tea (gasp!), and *poof* I become a snappish witch in pointed hat and slippers. The thoughts in my head tumble angrily from my mouth and when she leaves the room I put my head in my hands and sigh, reliving the scene that just passed and wondering why I have to be so irritable.
I want to go back and repeat those bars. I want my fingers to hit the right keys, I want it to come out differently. Above all, I want her to know that I know how to do it better– that the dissonant sound of my parenting fumbles is not a reflection on my true ability. Or rather, that my mistakes are not a true reflection of the feeling I have for her.
My love for my children is the rhythm of my parenting. Rather than going back and correcting the mistakes as I go along, I seek to recognise those mistakes (because I can learn from them), but then keep right on playing. The important thing is to keep the rhythm going. And when we get to the end of the piece, my fudging hopefully won’t matter quite as much as the overall sound which is that of love.
© Lisa Hassan Scott, February 2012. For reprint permission, contact the author.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.