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The Things That We Don't See

Last weekend, my ten year-old child and I conducted a music and storytelling session of I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello at Jurong Regional Library. The session was to seed the start of an Early Read parent community around reading with children and to interest parents in the neighbourhood to join hands in growing this learning community together.


The story was about a rather greedy dude who went about guzzling other people's instruments. What cheek, if you ask me. It served him right that he had a terrible bellyache and belched out the whole lot. Pretty disgustingly too.


Anyway.


My daughter lent her cello skills in bringing the story to life. She made her instrument bellow with the cello in the story, strum like the harp and ding like the dainty cascabel. She demonstrated the range of articulation, dynamics and tempos that musicians could create with their instruments.


The audience was enthralled: babies squealed in excitement, kids raised their hands to answer questions and moved like their favourite animals, and their parents played along with them. Everyone participated. The atmosphere was calm, fun and electrifying all at once. We had lots of fun leading the session and I thought that we connected with the families really well.


Some parents came up to commend us on how interactive, enjoyable and engaging our session was. In particular, how impressed they were with my daughter. (Like I had jokingly told them, she's the star - I'm just her stage manager.)


Her modest mother replied, "Thank you. She's been taking cello lessons for a few years."


"She's so calm," they continued. "She wasn't nervous at all."


"She knew just what to do. She was so sure and confident."


"She listened to you and executed your requests to her."


Wait, what? They weren't talking about how well she played the cello. They were telling me how wonderful she was as a person. AND were they attributing these shining compliments to this grumpy-almost-all-the-time pre-teen whom I snap at every other day for dragging her feet and leaving her belongings all over the house?


These parents helped me to see my child in a new light. They saw what I had - in the daily grind of being her parent and practice partner, forgotten to see.


They saw

confidence

clarity

calm

cooperation

respect

obedience

kindness

generosity

awareness

maturity


They saw Dr Shinichi Suzuki's philosophy in developing the Suzuki approach to learning:


Character first, ability second.


Character before Ability.


They may have heard her music. But even more so, they had seen, felt and were touched by her character.


I also saw us in a new light. In those 60 minutes, I was not an impatient parent with a sullen child. We had put our differences aside and had worked together to create a magical experience for other families.


We were a team.


We did it by flowing between giving and taking control, between speaking and listening, and between leading and following. We did it by reading, understanding and responding with minute cues in eye contact, physical touch and quiet words.


There, too, are things that others do not see.


They do not see that the teamwork came to us easily when called to fore because, without being aware of it, we work on our relationship every day through our daily music practice together. Practising together does not always go well. On some days, we have more bad feelings than good ones. We leave the bad behind in Yesterday, move on to Tomorrow and work on 'Us' again Today.


Our easy relationship at the session might have come across as the natural way of things between a parent and a child. To nurture, however, is what develops character and unlocks the ability in both parent and child to grow together in this way - 10 years and counting. To nurture is to be intentional. To nurture is to work at pouring yourself into another. To nurture is to hold steadfast in the belief that all this effort will have an impact beyond ourselves.


These are the things that we may not always see. But that day, I did.


What good might you have missed seeing in your child and in your relationship today?


Photograph courtesy of National Library Board

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