Not the Model Suzuki Mom

Lila on the Porch with Violin #1

As I hope I have conveyed in this blog, I am not the model Suzuki parent. I sometimes wonder if such a creature exists. In my mind, all Suzuki moms and dads (other than I) are endlessly patient (“It’s OK—I am more than happy to wait while you scratch that spot behind your knee/rosin the bow with every single crumb of the “special” rosin/stop being a gelatinous version of yourself,”) and perpetually creative (“Hey! Let’s spin the twister spinner, and every time it lands on the red we’ll play that difficult spot twelve times!” or “Let’s play the piece for the stuffed kitten. Let’s make a baby violin for the stuffed kitten! I will draw one and color it in with water colors.”)

On my very best days, and on the days when Suzuki practice doesn’t double as the time I nurse my two-year-old (which are about one in seven), I can employ a smattering of these qualities. But most days are not like this. Most days, I resort to threatening my daughter with the termination of violin lessons, which is mean, cruel and something I would never follow through with. I do this because I am in a hurry and don’t want to take the time for her to get comfortable and ease into the practice herself. Also–and this is testament to the exceptional quality of (and Lila’s love for) her teacher, Emily Greene–I do this because it works. As soon as I threaten, or even invoke Emily’s name, Lila perks up. For a few minutes, anyway.

I am not proud of this. But I don’t want to mislead you into thinking I am some great mom, just in case you were fooled. What I am is determined, slightly insane and madly in love with my daughter. I am hoping the latter supersedes the former two.

But yesterday was different. It was one of those days when I didn’t have my two year old. Indeed, at first, this seemed like a deal breaker for the practice. “Where’s Johnny?”

“With Daddy and Kris.”

“No fair! I want to be with Daddy and Kris!” (and gelatinous daughter wiggles on the floor, her bow over her forehead in a dramatic fashion.) Instead of saying, “Look, if you want to take violin lessons you have to practice,” as I usually do, I said, “Hey! Let’s play around the world!”

Around the world, as taught to us by Emily, involves playing one piece in every room of the house. But today, instead of following her around with my right hand on her left, straightening out her bent thumb and keeping her fingers out of the “swamp,” I let her have fun, and I let her make mistakes. She marched from room to room, playing “Allegretto” kind of roughly, but with great joy and pleasure. And when we were done, she came back to the kitchen table and we went through her entire repertoire.
That night she played a concert for the writers on my retreat. The bugs were nibbling at the backs of our necks and the sun was setting behind the trees, and my little five year old was playing a Bach Minuet. I felt redeemed, and as usual, determined to do better.

About nields

musician, writer, mom
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8 Responses to Not the Model Suzuki Mom

  1. Theresa says:

    Thank you for your honesty! I have had similar experiences – the girls were having such meltdowns the Saturday afternoon of Jam for the Fans that I made the idle threat of them not going to the Iron Horse. I do try NOT to make those threats that I can’t/won’t back up, because if done often enough it will undermine your credibility. I’ve started to try to (a) be more patient, (b) present options for behavior (instead of flat out threats/rewards) and (c) not be as demanding. That last one is SO difficult – I constantly need to remind myself that the kids are still young and it might be unreasonable of me to expect them to automatically be focussed or behave the way I think they should. On occasion, you just to hand the reins over to them and let them lead the way. I’m glad that you were able to do that and that that freedom gave Lila (and you) such joy.

  2. nields says:

    Love this, Theresa–thanks!

  3. Libby says:

    As a piano teacher, I like to tell my students’ parents to think of practice time like brushing teeth. A) You’ve gotta do it if you want results. B) You will have to remind and encourage your child to do it and probably prod them sometimes. C) It’s not always a whole lot of fun. D) Sometimes it gets done better than others. E) If you miss a night, the world won’t end.

    From what I’ve read here, I think you sound like a FANtastic lesson parent… and that takes special dedication in Suzuki-land. I love reading about it!

    One of my favorite practice tricks is to get about 12 or 16 popsicle sticks and label them 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Child draws a popsicle stick from a cup and then must jump to line 4 or 3 or whichever she drew and play that line of the song. Continue till all the popsicle sticks are gone. Play the entire song through twice. And then go have a real popsicle.

    And FWIW, I am totally getting a Twister spinner to use in lessons with some of my little wiggly ones.

  4. nields says:

    Hi Libby,
    Thanks so much! What a GREAT idea about the popsicle sticks. I am going to try that with Lila as soon as we’ve saved up enough sticks. That means eating popsicles.
    Love, Nerissa

  5. I use cards that list the exercise/pattern/song that is to be practised. And then I paste them with blu-tack on trains or cars. Once each card is done, the car/train gets to move to “star” station. ;D

    By the way, my little suzuki pianist & violinist is the one that is still nursing! haha!

  6. kim clement says:

    Good for you! Thanks for sharing a happy Suzuki Moment. I have kids in books 1,2, and 3 and it’s not always pretty but we keep on keepin’ on.

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