My daughter's violin and I haven't always had a good relationship. When she started studying three years ago, I thought things would move along on autopilot. That she'd get her assignments, do the practicing, take care of the instrument - and then surprise and delight me with exquisitely executed Mozart and Vivaldi.
Yes, my daughter shows innate talent and a love of music. But she's 12 years old! And when I realized that it would take a lot more effort on my part, I despaired. What she needed to learn from me was the discipline. Frankly, I didn't know if I had what it took to impart that skill.
Her teacher had told me I needed to be an active part of her practice sessions, correcting her consistently so that no bad habits would form. This would help her learn how to correct herself. Trouble was, every time I tried, it made me critical. And impatient. I'd wind up angry, and she'd wind up in tears. I actually hated what it was doing to our mother-daughter relationship.
One day, I saw her struggling to perform a simple scale that I'd barely paid attention to that week. I knew that if I had been of more assistance, she would be performing better now. My own failing hit me deeply. How could I have withheld my support? Here was a gift I could give her - but I had to know how. Who could tell me how to be a better mom to my budding violinist?
I began an hours-long inner dialogue with my Mother, God. For the rest of the lesson and throughout that day, I mentally laid my fears and inadequacies before God. And She listened. Even when I felt ashamed, God, divine Love, was there, patiently waiting for me to finish what I had to say. I don't recall any argument back - God wasn't blaming me or readying me for punishment. But I do recall a feeling that Her tender love would never fail, no matter what confession I made.
Finally, when I had "told all," I got to the point where I was ready to listen. I thought, "OK, I know I've been wrong. I know that I have to be a better mother. I just don't know how, or even if I can. Can You help me?"
The answer, when it came, was so light and simple. "You can do it with Love. You are My child, created in My image. It is natural for you to express and live divine Love. You can make the practicing a special time of growing closer, so that all your daughter remembers is your support, encouragement, and approval. With your being there for her, the experience can take on an entirely different tone."
What relief and forgiveness I felt at this message! It gave me the confidence to try.
Words from a book chapter titled "Christian Science Practice" came to me. They're talking about healing the sick. But they meant something more to me at that moment. "The tender word and Christian encouragement of an invalid, pitiful patience with his fears and the removal of them, are better than hecatombs of gushing theories, stereotyped borrowed speeches, and the doling of arguments, which are but so many parodies on legitimate Christian Science, aflame with divine Love" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, pg. 367).
It seemed that "the tender word and Christian encouragement" would be good medicine for a violin student as well. I could be "aflame with divine Love," expressing God's nature in ways that would promote joy, fun, expectation, progress.
God had removed my fear and gently encouraged me. I would do the same for my daughter.
I called her to me that night, saying, "Let's go over some of what you learned in your lesson today."
To be honest, she eyed me with some suspicion!
"No, it'll be fun. And if it's not fun, we'll stop."
We went up to her room, and she played for me. We joked and laughed and enjoyed the sections that were well done. We discussed together how to improve the others. We were so engrossed that an hour and a half went by before we knew it.
And that's how it has been since then. No, practicing hasn't become instantly easy for her or unfailingly pleasant for me. But we have a new commitment to approaching this endeavor as a team. My daughter feels sure of my love, and I feel sure of her best effort.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society