I have three wonderful children who are all talented musicians, but you know how sometimes you just hit a streak of awesome? Last month that was Arianna. She participated in the Kiwanis festival in both piano and voice. And she killed it. She was winning classes left right and center. She got invited to participate in trophy classes in both voice and piano. In a two week span she did all the original classes and her voice trophy class and did amazing. Then one week later we went to her piano trophy class. Much stiffer competition than the singing, but I knew she deserved to be there. They got the children all situated. Arianna was the last pianist of 23 children. She sat there as kid after kid nailed it. I was completely shocked as 22 kids got up and played through their pieces with not one mistake. Not one. But Arianna could play hers without any mistakes also, so I wasn’t worried. She got up and announced the names of her two pieces. You see, the class she won required her to play two contrasting studies, so we assumed she would have to play them both here also - this was the first time we had kids who won their classes be old enough for a trophy class. As she went to sit down to play, the adjudicator announced that she wouldn’t be allowed to play both and would have to choose. My heart sank as she picked the second one. She had always played them one right after the other, and I knew that going out of order could really mess her up.
She sat down and took several seconds before she could remember where to start. She was totally thrown off now. For the next two minutes, or what seemed like forever, she stopped and started four times before she got through the song. The song that she had played perfectly a hundred times before. I watched as she persevered to the end, stood up, gave a smile and a bow, went back to her seat at the end of the row and promptly broke down. She had to sit there by herself through the presentation to the winner and closing remarks. As soon as they were dismissed, she practically ran out the door where I met her from the other side of the church.
I threw my arm around her and ushered her out to the car murmuring things like, its ok sweetie and it happens to the best of us. But I knew the best remedy would be a good cry. As we drove home, I let her have her good cry and then change the subject.
The more I thought, the more I realized that this might be a good time to try and speak some truth into her life, hopefully right down to her heart. To try and undo some of the damage that doubt and perfectionism have done to her. I understand this girl because that doubt and perfectionism come directly from me.
I put the van in park in the driveway, turned around, and took both her hands in mine. I looked right in her eyes and said this,
Arianna, today does not determine your worth. There is no one, not me, not your dad, not your teacher, not God, that is going to love you any less because of what happened today. Not only that, but we would not have loved you more if you had won. Your accomplishments have no effect on our love for you. Today does not determine your identity. You are not a failure. You are still a good pianist. You had one bad day. That does not change who you are as a person. We are still proud of you today. Our pride is not in a trophy, but in your work ethic and the fact that you persevered through a difficult situation. I love you no matter what. I love you simply because you're my child.
Now if only I could remember this everyday…