29 October 2013, by Evelyn Tan

Giving children time and space to find themselves

We recently started Kristen on choir practice with the Singapore Symphony Children’s choir because she liked singing so much . Being in Singapore– you know how it’s like , if your child shows potential for something , there’s no lack of avenues ( and encouragement from well- meaning friends and family!) to help your child pursue that interest further.

We were initially hesitant about doing so as we wanted Kristen to really just sing for the love of it and while going for classes may push that vocal range to Mariah Carey standards not to mention sharpen the pitch-perfectness, we were concerned the push for such goals will deter and stress our kid up from her love of singing. After all, we are not looking to groom our little one into the next Kit Chan or Sun Yanzi . Finally , instead of sending her for singing classes we decided to let her join a choir instead ,so the push is not so much on individual performance but more to allow her the opportunity to share that love of singing with like- minded peers.

Well, it has been about 2 months now since she first started and the repertoire of songs that she now sings has definitely expanded greatly ! But the greatest and most unexpected ‘ take-away’ that I feel we got from these 2 months of lessons was nothing short of the fact that she requested to take up piano lessons again at the end of the first month!

You see , all these while I have been hoping for our children to each play a musical instrument and in my eagerness to see that happen , I started Kristen on Yamaha Junior Music Class when she was 6! We saw it through to the end of the four books of that course and she never touched the piano again .

This was really reminiscent of my own ten year journey with learning how to play the piano , I started taking private piano lessons at 6 and went all the way to Grade 6 but when ‘O’ levels came , Ihad the perfect excuse to say I needed extra time to prepare for exams and never went back to it again ! Why? Simply because I abhor it ! The whole process of it ! The yearly ABRSM exams , the stress of needing to perform for guests when they visit you and see that you have a piano at home and worst of all —the daily practice sessions! To top it all , I didn’t have an inspiring teacher to begin with and all we were made to do year in year out was to practise exam pieces ( the minute they were released ) , so how can you not pass with flying colours when you have been practising them for months ; but apart from great grades, those piano lessons did nothing to further my interest and appreciation in music!

Phew ! Thanks for bearing with me — those years of pent -up frustrations all out in one paragraph! Now back to Kristen’s own walk in learning to play a musical instrument . When I saw how unmotivated she was to learn any further — ie she groans each time we have to sit at the piano for practice and tries to negotiate the number of times to practise for each piece and for how long she has to practise, I knew I was up for an uphill task if learning to play an instrument was just solely for MY gratification and not theirs!

Many parents might beg to differ on my take , stating that kids just need to be pushed initially for the first few years and when the chore of practice becomes second nature and when they achieve their first sense of achievement from playing the instrument , then it will be smooth- sailing all the way . Well, I tried and harboured hope for that happening , but I guess my patience wore thin and I reflected on how after 10 years of playing and it still didn’t come for me and I started giving up hope of ever seeing it happen before I run out of steam . The other thing I noticed too was how this daily struggle was taking its toll on our relationship . Because of that sense of control I try to exert over her in this matter , I see her exhibiting defiance in other areas to regain her sense of balance in our ‘ power struggle’ . Of course , I could curb it through other even more ‘forceful’ means but I always believe in choosing our battles with children and this really wasn’t a battle I was ready to fight for the next one year let alone ten !

So when that request came , I was more than ready to hear why she had a change of mind . She explained that at choir practice , they sometimes need to read musical notes and all of her peers understand them because they have learned about them through their piano lessons or when they play some other instruments . She even adds that she remembers she once was familiar with them too but because she gave up halfway that’s why she has forgotten about them and even hints of regret at not having continuing with it ! Immediately I sought out a piano teacher for her and till now there’s been no turning back ( yes it’s just been a month now but I recognize the signs when I see them — things are looking positive !) and she positively enjoys her time practising in front of the piano without the need for me to even sit through those practice sessions with her !

In some ways , I congratulate myself for waiting through those two years when nothing was happening after Yamaha , but just keeping the hope that maybe one day , my wish of seeing her play the piano might materialize. And I still believe that if it did not ,then it was just not meant to be in the first place . There will be other things that she will find in life that will suit her much better and resonate with her personality and interest and all I had to do was just provide the opportunity to further that interest and talent . I believe I would lead a much more joyful life watching and discovering my girl for herself rather than make her live out a dream that I have for her , making two people miserable in the process of it ……

Truly it is hard to have that resolved to let your child have that space and time to grow into themselves , especially in such an efficient society that we live in that keeps telling you that “more” is better ! But as we learn to relax and let life happen, like how Kristen discovered for herself that learning to play the piano was what she wanted to do FOR HERSELF , we ease our burden to help our children fulfill their upmost potential and start truly enjoying them for who they are, believing that they will come into being who they were really meant to be in the first place ………..

Posted on : October 29, 2013

Filed under : Uncategorized

1 Comment

Tan Yi Lin

Yi Lin

October 30th, 2013 at 3:35 pm    

Wow, great that singing in a choir has inspired Kristen to take up piano again and that she has discovered the motivation within herself to learn the piano.

I SO know what you mean re piano lessons and forcing yourself through daily (or not) practice and exam pieces. I went through that myself too – not that my parents pressured me to but because I had accepted that it was what was needed in order to get from Grade 1 to Grade 8 and to ‘finish’ the training. I also loathed being asked to perform simply because the piano was there. It still is – but no one touches it anymore.

I wrote about music classes a while back too and how through an early introduction to music, I hope to seed a love for music in the girls, rather than to just sign them up to learn an instrument when they’re older.

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