Piano lessons were a fact of life for the Dale girls. We dutifully went to Mrs. Greenaway's house once a week, we practiced each and every day, and we endured recitals every June that were nerve-wracking but did provide a nice excuse for new dresses and shiny patent leather shoes.
Along the way, we learned some important life lessons:
Do not try to teach your own children.
Mom and dad were both concert pianists, but they were wise enough to see the benefits of sending us to someone else for lessons. That way they could just be ordinary parents for us - though of course, they often gave helpful little tips from the next room: "That should be an A-flat, dear!"
If you have a big project in front of you, tackle the hard parts first.
It's tempting to just keep doing whatever you're good at. But to move to the next level, you've got to conquer the hard parts. You can do it - just take it a step at a time, and work on those hard parts first. This applies to a wide variety of situations including learning calculus, driving a stick shift, and running for vice president.
Practice makes perfect.
Mom said that we used to fight over whose turn it was to practice, and that we set the kitchen timer to make sure nobody was going over their time limit. Hm. That's a nice way to look at it, but I'm pretty sure that I remember bumping the timer ahead so Monica would get stuck practicing an extra 10 minutes while I went outside to play.
Nobody is perfect.
Even if I did practice faithfully all week long, laboring over every note in The Bear Dance and counting out every rhythm, Mrs. Greenaway would inevitably find something I did wrong, something I could do better, and something I needed to go home and practice.
Looking back now, I do appreciate all the wonderful things Mrs. Greenaway taught me. But I kind of wish that, just once, she had said:
"You know, Lesley, I can tell that you work really hard to get everything just right. I see your little face drop when I offer constructive criticism. I know you are upset when you make a mistake. I want you to know that life is not about being perfect. It's about being flexible, and being generous, and being kind - even to yourself."
"Do the things you love. Do them as well as you can. And if you make a mistake, forgive yourself. Then move on."
If I had heard that when I was little, I may not have agonized over decisions and aimed for perfection and demanded more of myself than I did of anyone else.
But on the other hand, I may not have mastered every note of The Bear Dance. So it's kind of a trade-off I guess.