• Lauren3

    Fuck yeah, Heather. Fuck yeah, Leta. xoxoxo

  • lyssann

    This made me cry so hard. This was exactly the right thing to do and she will remember it. I wanted to quit piano a lot as a kid but eventually when I got older, practicing and playing became relaxing and way to quiet my mind.

  • HeatherArmstrong

    It’s called “Little Cloud” by Kevin Costley.

  • Sarah

    You’re only mean if you think Amy Tan is a mean mom.. Although, didn’t you mention a while back that Leta asked that she no longer be on your site? If I were you, I’d go ahead and respect her wishes. good luck to you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=13751225 Keely Chaisson

    Can’t tell you how much I wish I had your kind of “mean mom” in my life as a kid. I didn’t figure out the “learning from messing up” thing until college. And my perfectionism still sabotages me every chance it gets.

  • Angela Dyrcz

    This was such a great post, Heather. I loved it!

  • keisha

    Wow. This is our life. Sub a 5-year-old boy for Leta and taekwondo for the activity. And I am desperate to let my son quit! My husband feels the same way as you, though. So we put on a (somewhat) united front and go on, at least until the 6-month chunk of time we’ve prepaid for has ended. My son is an anxious perfectionist as well, and he’s is lazy as well, BECAUSE of his perfectionism. If something doesn’t come easily to him, he shuts down. Making him practice taekwondo is like torture for both of us 95% of the time. So, God bless your patience and your fortitude in guiding Leta along in her piano practice. Sometimes I wonder what kind of person I would be today if I had stuck it out with piano. Maybe I wouldn’t be so desperate to end taekwondo lessons every time my son pitches a fit.

  • keisha

    That didn’t come out right. “Lazy as well” = lazy in addition to being a perfectionist, NOT saying “lazy as well as Leta”…

  • tobs

    I begged my mom for years to quit the piano. She didn’t let me, either. Looking back on it, I think it was one of the best parenting decisions she ever made. I loved the piano, I was proud of my accomplishments, and I love that I can still sit down and play.

  • Bobbi

    Oh Heather, that was a great post! It even brought a tear to my eye. I wish I could get mine to understand the preparedness issue. She fights me every step of the way despite the numerous different approaches I take. Kudos.

  • Megan Gordon

    You did good, mama. Lots of things are hard and frustrating (parenting comes to mind), but learning how to deal with that and succeed is a gift.

  • Shelley

    Dear god, that was beautiful. I’m going to blame the pregnancy hormones for my teariness upon reaching the end of that post. On a slightly related note, have you heard of alt-J? I think any Radiohead fan would appreciate their music. Their album, An Awesome Wave, deserves to be listened to from beginning to end. While listening to it the other day, I thought, “I bet Dooce would like this.” That’s totally normal, right?

  • Likethewrap

    I am crying at my desk at work. I really hope that no one notices or atleast this starts a good rumor. You are a beautiful mother Heather. This is definitely a lesson that I will remember and will pass on to my baby when he is older. Like you, I see the perfectionist that is me in him. I know that this will be a hurdle time and time again for both of us. Leta is very lucky to have you. Marlo is too.

  • Tina Stovall

    Damn! Where were you when my kids were growing up?

  • http://www.facebook.com/marybethbutler MaryBeth Butler

    OMG you are the best mom ever. And the best writer ever, too. And now I want a cookie.

  • jessica

    And I bet she won’t hate piano so much anymore… as a lifelong music student, I had many times when I Just Didn’t Wanna, and usually that was because I wasn’t prepared, because practicing sucked etc. But as soon as I put in the time, I always earned a great performance and loved the glow that came alogn with it. Bravo and congratulations Leta, and good job Mom for teaching her how to practice. Learning music is one of the hardest things in the world, but I believe one of the most rewarding.

  • honeysucklelife

    Not the worst. You set high expectations, and then did everything you could to help her meet them. I think that’s the best kind of parenting. Said from a former piano player that absolutely HATED it.

  • Sarah

    eh, the bad parenting apologists are an odd breed, and their schtick is getting a bit old. At any rate, if this is the Amy Tan parenting approach, the results speak for themselves. I do remember your daughter asked not to be featured here, though- if no one else will speak up for her, I will. Good luck to you.

  • susiw

    i can not even begin to tell you how much i enjoyed this. love love love it

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000251238806 Robin Cole

    Federation (and its violin equivalent – Festival) prepared me better for real life experiences than any other child-activity. After performing a DeBeriot for super pissy judges, speaking up in meetings and presenting a bullshit ppt for a hundred people became easy. I’m glad my mom/dad pushed me through it. Torture, yes. But life doesn’t get easier.

  • OrangeLily

    That was great. You taught your daughter a very important lesson, one more important than math or reading. And I learned too, and I will bookmark this page, as I like the words you chose to express yourself to your daughter, where finding the best words fails me oftentimes.

    But the last line was priceless.

  • Katy McCaffrey

    This was lovely. Thank you.

  • Rachel Sea

    I love this. I think it stinks that parents are told to celebrate quitting as an expression of individuality. Sticking with a thing even when it is frustrating and scary can be so, so good in the long term. Parenting shouldn’t be about having safe kids who are always happy, it should be about raising up strong, confident, self-sufficient adults who are able to overcome challenges and find joy in their accomplishments.

  • kk158462

    Yes, yes, YES! My husband is a violin teacher and the biggest problem he sees with the students are the parents! So many parents teach their kids that quitting is OK. Granted, if the kid absolutely hates the instrument, that’s a different story. But frustration over a difficult piece is no reason to give up or move on to another expensive instrument. Good for you!!!!!! She will thank you!

  • crn

    This is beautiful. Good job, Mama Dooce. You nailed this one.

  • Dellasaffy

    I’m a single 30-something with a cat. No kids. No piano lessons. But I’m crying in the cubicle. You’re one awesome mom and a hell of a writer too. You rock, Heather.

  • Abbylu12

    I am having a hard time with my daughter right now because her behavior toward homework is exactly the same as mine was at her age. I needed to read this, because I needed to know that we are all just teaching the coping skills we have learned. And hey, we aren’t dead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marie.mcdowell.90 Marie McDowell

    THIS this piece, made me cry. So beautiful. Way to go Heather and way to go Leta.

  • africankelli

    You are wonderful. May we remember how important it is to practice, to learn from our errors and to be prepared. Thank you!

  • Beth

    Why am I crying? I don’t care if they are 4 or 24, when your child accomplishes something that seemed so hard, it explodes the heart of a mother with such pride that we can’t help but cry. I cried when my son cut his food by himself for the first time. I can’t imagine what a piano recital would do to me. Thank God I have years to prepare.

  • Jenny

    You’re not perfect, but you practice. You do what you can to be prepared, despite all the distractions of life – even chocolate. You’re such a good mom, and you give me hope that even though I’m not perfect, or even always prepared, I am a good mom to my daughter as well.

  • sam

    you are a great mom

  • bethstoddard

    I’m a piano teacher.

    This just made my day.

    Thanks. You rock.

  • meomeoh

    You did great meanest mommy in the world! And when your daughter is a lot older she will thank you! Thanks for your posts!

  • Kate S.

    One of your best posts, ever. Good job, mom! And Leta!

  • Dorothy Logan

    As someone with a degree in music ed, man, have I been there done that. Great job with getting her to just shut everything you were doing out. :-)

    Side note: if you know who Edgar Meyer and Bela Fleck are, you should see if you can find some behind the scenes footage of them rehearsing and performing. There was one piece – a canon in 15/8 – that was screwing them up. Meyer (a bassist) was practicing a run on his own and kept screwing up over and over again, and during a performance they actually had to stop, regroup, and start again. Man, did I feel better about my practice sessions after that.

  • http://twitter.com/tksinclair tksinclair

    At least you got yours to rehab. I was a single mom and so close to my kids – it was “us” against the world, you know. And now, in his 30′s he’s using SOMETHING. I’m not sure what…he hasn’t lived with me for a long time but it’s heroin-like. He’s lost his fiance, he has no place to live, he has no clothes – he sleeps and lives in a work uniform, no car, NOTHING…this is my BEAUTIFUL Beautiful, talented, loving, son. I text, he doesn’t answer except once when I was sick a couple of months ago and he texted back, “I love you mom”. I wrote back, “I know you do honey.” His shame is SO GREAT…it’s dibilitating. I’ve paid for rehab but now I”m down to nothing. I had over a million in assets and cash 5 years ago, now I have nothing. I’ve lost my house, he destroyed another I owned. I have no idea when I go to bed at night, where he is or if he’s alive. I would give my life this very second if I knew he would be okay. Not even great – who needs great – just, “okay.” I’ll take okay. My grief and despair is as dibilitating as his shame. And I don’t know what to do…I really don’t….so, I know it’s hard. Oh god I know. But Mamabigdog…your daughter is in rehab. TODAY, you know where she is. You know she’s alive and relatively warm, clean and provided for. I can’t begin to tell you what I’d give to have that…You’ve gotten her this far and that’s HUGE. Good for you…I know how alone it can feel at times when you always been “between.” Between her and family, between her and siblings, between her and her father. Be strong…you are not a mean mom but a brave one. And she knows that. She loves you too…she really does. Just let her know that no matter what you love her. My fear sometimes is that I will die and my son will think I thought he didn’t love me. It’s important to me that he knows that I know HE LOVES ME SO MUCH…and he does…I get it and I hope you understand that she loves you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephanie.doust Stephanie Speck

    Wow- good on you. I started learning piano when I was 4. My mum was my first teacher. We pretty clearly saw the non-sense of that, and I swapped to another teacher. Being basically over-confident and just a little lazy, every time I got stuck on something that was beyond my ability to play immediately, I’d want to quit. My mum would.not.let.me. She once asked me, ‘What piece would you really like to be able to play?’ I mumbled something about something by Kabalevsky, and she said, ‘Right; how about you keep going until you can play that, and then see if you want to quit.’ She was so right. Once I got to the stage where my ability matched my confidence (and my ambition)– about three years later– I was home and hosed. It didn’t mean I still didn’t struggle at times with frustration, it just meant I knew I could do it.
    When I was at Uni, I started teaching piano myself. It was great money and I got to do it right from home. The second week of lessons was a huge revelation. I knew IMMEDIATELY who had practised and who hadn’t. IMMEDIATELY. I remembered (with horror and shame) thinking I had fooled my teacher for years, when it was quite clear, I hadn’t and she must have just been incredibly patient. The guilt was quite something. I know when my daughter is old enough to start learning, it will be with the caveat, ‘We’re not starting until you’re quite sure you’re going to give it a really good, committed bash. Oh. And your grandma can teach you.’

  • Peg

    I’ve never commented here before, and full disclosure, sometimes I don’t read completely through longer blog posts. We’ll call it short-internet-attention-span-ism. But this one? Total welling up with tears…and I read the WHOLE thing. Nicely done!

  • Adri

    Aren’t piano lesson a lot like marriage?

  • katherine

    My first question after reading this post (as I try to compose myself from becoming choked up) is: when did that darling young woman in the photos grow up? I’ve been reading your blog since before Leta was born and my god she’s all of a sudden a confident young woman and I’m feeling like a million years old.

    I wish beyond wishing that my mother had taken your approach. I took piano lessons for 2 years as a kid and mom used practicing as punishment. To this day I wish I still knew how to play and even bought a parlor grand piano thinking I would learn again; so far I just can’t bring myself to do it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mely.vidalon Mely Vidalon

    Are you kidding me NOPE you are not the meanest mom in the world. What you are doing is what I do with my 14 yrs daughter. She plays the Cello and every day I had to reminder her about practice. Even when she loves Cello there’s some times she feels like she’s not doing her best. What we teach our kids by pushing them to practice more and by not quiting is life lesson. She will not be the first one running or taking the easy way in any life type experience.

  • Martha

    I had the ‘meanest mother in the world’ also when it came to piano lessons (I had to play my songs FOUR times!), but am I EVER glad I did. She told me I’d thank her someday and she was right!

  • Jane

    I wish I’d had a mother like you.

  • ajlars

    You are kick-ass mom and I’m inspired by your love for and diligence in helping them strive to be their best, not the world’s best, not even your best, but their best. Thanks for sharing this!

  • zinwap

    I’m not crying–I’m just cutting onions in a really dusty apartment…

  • http://twitter.com/hikatie katie s.

    I’m 32 and still have the same worries about my messing up – and my poor, dear husband is now the one who has to assure me that there’s nothing wrong with mistakes. Fingers crossed that Leta internalizes it a little better than I have. :)