That’s what my husband said as he collapsed on the bed. We had just spent the afternoon at a piano recital. My girls and husband started piano lessons about a year ago and last weekend they had a recital. Leading up to the recital we found ourselves in a handful of debacles. The three of them do lessons before school starts. While this is super convenient for us, it is a nightmare for keeping track of their piano music. After lessons, they neatly and carefully place their folded piece of music into their bags for safe keeping. Oh how I wish that were true. Instead, they shove it into an overpacked and massively unorganized back pack. Which, week by week changes shapes and forms, and more often then not, that music gets lost. While that is a disaster in itself, it lends to less practice and more drama surrounding the piano experience.
So, leading up to this recital I could feel the tension rising. Missing music and practicing just one page of a three page piece was certainly not ideal, and the day of the recital was a rough one. Everyone was on edge, emotions were high, and mama was running out of patience. I found my voice raising a bit adding to the already high tension levels. In the final moments before leaving the house I was dealing with a handful of last minute items: the dress wasn’t right, the shoes didn’t fit, the sweater was too short! Oh dear Lord help me…so many naughty words running through my head.
We get to the church. About 70 people gathered to both perform and applaud these hard working students. I had a pit in my stomach, sweaty hands, and armpits to match. If this is how I felt on the side-lines how did my family feel? First up, my oldest. She walked boldly to the piano and assertively introduced herself and her piece, A Whole New World. Gulp. I held my breath. She played the first page flawlessly, the grip on my pant leg let up a bit, I exhaled. Then it happened. She played one wrong note. I could see it on her face. Panic. Silence. I started praying like only a mama can. Silence still. I am sending her well wishes, love, kindness, warmth, I’m wishing I would have been more compassionate earlier at home, regret. More silence. I can see her eyes starting to well up, it has been at least 10 seconds of dead silence and you can cut the tension in the room with a knife. I want to yell, “It’s ok, honey. Don’t worry”, I want to run and sweep her into my safe arms and save her from this toxic silence. The lump in my throat grows with each passing second. She is staring at her fingers…willing them to do something, anything. More silence. Eventually, she skips a slew of measures, and instead just plays the last note, the note that ends the song, but certainly not her agony. I know she’s just a kid and this too will pass, but I am without words, and my lump is growing.
The other two follow suit. Each making mistakes and stumbling through their pieces. My husband struggled too, but not because of lack of practice, just the pressure of performing as an adult among a trove of young kids.
We all head home, heads hung low. It’s as if we’d just witnessed a tragedy. When we get home, everyone retreats to a quiet place. I am still feeling the pain of that moment, but there is something else I feel that I can’t describe. It’s warm and authentic and deep…I feel proud. How in the world could I be feeling pride, when as a family, we performed the worst (and I’m not just saying that). I took a moment to just sit and think, and when I did, the lump spilled over. I was so deep down proud of my family. Through my tears I realized how hard it was to put themselves out there. How hard it is especially knowing you won’t be the best. How hard it is, to even try,when success is so far away on the horizon. So, there I sat on the bed, rubbing my husband’s back, as he dealt with his vulnerability hangover ,and I sorted through my unexpected feeling of pride. Being vulnerable is hard. It’s embarrassing. It’s humiliating at times, but, boy, is it inspiring.
Sure, the girls learned valuable lessons about being prepared, but I hope that’s not all they learned. I hope they watched their dad carefully, and felt the same pride I did. He was showing them, in the best way possible, how to be vulnerable. He used no words, made no mention of life lessons, he just did, and, so did they. So, next recital, you might see me standing on my chair yelling a big whoop whoop no matter the outcome, because once you understand, and appreciate the magnitude of being vulnerable, it deserves a standing ovation.