She sits next to me on the stool, her tiny fingers spread over the ivory keys, her thumbs gliding across the span of an octave in search of that elusive Middle C.
“No, that’s the A. Where is the C?”
I catch myself because I know that I just sounded frustrated. I am only human after all and we begin her lessons by searching for Middle C daily. Sometimes she gets it right away, other times not so much. I have to remind myself that she is only six and is doing so well. To a six year old, all those keys can be an overwhelming sea of black and white.
Those who have the patience to teach piano to children are saints. Saints, I tell you. Sadly, I am not one of them.
She gets it on the next try and I make sure that this time my tone is full of praise as she begins her exercises. I continuously remind myself that it is my encouragement that will play a big part of keeping it fun for her. Learning to play piano is no easy feat at any age.
But oh, she has that natural ear. She stops reading the notes after she plays them a few times through and goes on memory alone. She knows how it should sound and recognizes when it is wrong. It is going to be a gift but also a hindrance when she dives deeper into theory, so I remind her again to keep her eyes on the page.
After we finish her exercises she asks me to play for her. My fingers dance across the keys, muscle memory at its finest, as I tap out a few pieces from my childood that I would never have believed were still in me. Yet here they are.
“Play the Toy Story one Mommy!”
We have a few books of modern music and while some of them are beyond my skills due to 25 years of neglect, surprisingly with just a little effort I was able to hop right back on that bike.
“Someday I want to play like you,” she says.
“No Sweetie, if you practice a lot and try real hard, someday you will be better than me.”
“No, I want to be just like you.” Pride and sorrow stuck in my throat.
I looked at my husband later that evening and said, “But I don’t want her to be like me. She can be so much more.” And right there I recognized in myself for the first time that desperation for her to have it, to be it. I have always heard of parents who want more for their children than what they had for themselves. It is human nature; of course we all want that. Even before I was a parent I knew I would want that. Yet this was the first time that I truly, deeply felt it. And it was desire and caution wrapped up into a complex little bundle of hope. Knowing that I am, as I should be, forever destined to encourage, to guide, to stand aside. Understanding what I gave up and what she could have, and recognizing the fine line between her dreams and mine; our thumbs resting on Middle C.