While I love soaking in December's relaxed, festive atmosphere and cool rainy weather (sometimes literally, when I forget to bring an umbrella), the last week of the year creates rumblings of an internal tussle where I feel caught between wanting to enjoy the last of the holidays and answering the call of the new year.
It's like being stuck in a twilight zone of winding up while winding down. Does anybody else feel this way?
At work, this means taking time away from the office while preparing for meetings in January. At home, navigating the zone involves stepping gingerly to avoid small piles of unboxed Christmas gifts and splashes of LEGO while taking down the Christmas decorations. It's like being on 'The Floor Is Lava' - but the opposite.
Then, there's the new school year, where the only winter flurries that fly in our face are of the administrative kind: New school hours. New timetables. New lesson slots. New transport arrangements. An entire ecosystem of multiple people's schedules held gingerly in balance over 12 months has to be dissolved and reassembled.
Hence, making time to momentarily disengage from all these impending changes to reflect on the ups and downs of the year past can be a grounding experience. Looking back helps to prime our hearts and minds to receive the 'ups' and overcome the 'downs' in store for us. Last night, we cleared the dining table, sat each child down with the 'My Emoji Self-Evaluation' sheet and invited them to think through the attitude and behaviour that they had brought to music lessons and practice sessions over the year. (I confess that this was a "we-all-have-music-homework-to-do-before-lessons-this-weekend" activity rather than the zen-like stock photo that the idea of self-reflection conjures up. Being impatiently task-oriented versus process-oriented does not bide well for me. I also rewarded them with "campfire" marshmallows toasted over the kitchen stove.)
I discovered that when presented the opportunity for self reflection in a neutral setting, children are refreshingly honest in their opinions of themselves. No denial. No blame. No brags. No untruths. No comparisons. No judgements. I saw the maturity that is possible in the littlest of people when my tone and actions are not cast with opinion, authority, criticism, doubt or blame. In fact, when I stepped in to correct the youngest by affirming that she practised very regularly this year, she piped, "I didn't! I didn't practise on your birthday!" I was about remind her that she might had listened to her pieces on Spotify or done air piano during the car ride or on the restaurant table, but decided to swallow my opinion and let her colour in the "Mostly" emoji. By doing that, we gave her room to grow - and an aspiration to nail that "Absolutely" emoji in the next year.
So. We have to practise what we preach, right? With the kids "settled", I sat down to do my own self-evaluation (the boring adult edition without the emojis):
Did I guide my children to practise regularly in 2020? All the time!
Did I make the best possible use of practice time? Mostly.
Did I come to their lessons with a positive attitude? Mostly.
How was my concentration during their lessons? Pretty good.
Am I happy with what we accomplished in music in 2020? Very happy!
What could we do even better in 2021?
I could focus better on the child before me during lessons and practices - instead of mentally running through my To-Do List or spacing out. (Yes, I do.)
I could demonstrate more patience through my tone and actions - especially when my child breaks off into a what-feels-like-eternity-but-is-really-only-one-minute rambling side story about something she suddenly remembered or is inspired by. She could learn to hold a thought and ask for time to share it after completing the task at hand.
I could dedicate more time and effort into making practice more enjoyable and not as something to strike off on the daily routine. She could learn to suggest practice games to play. (And I could learn to say "Yes" to fun.)
Happy New Year, everyone. May 2021 be a year of positivity, growth and joy through all that learning and playing music brings.