Practice, Practice — It’s Not About Being Perfect
by Beth K. Vogt
Ah, the agony and the ecstasy when my child performs!
Am I the only mom who sits in the audience, a wretched mass of mixed emotions? Delight and dread twist together with equal parts enthusiasm and anxiety. I may have a calm, cool demeanor, but my husband knows I’m wishing I was anywhere but waiting for our child to take center stage.
Thanks to my three much-older children, I’ve had years to figure out why I’m such a wreck when my child’s selected to act in a school play or volunteers—volunteers!—to play piano for a school assembly.
I’m a perfectionist.
There. I’ve said it.
As much as I believe my “Motherhood: Perfection Not Required” mantra, that doesn’t mean I don’t trip over the truth. My goal as a mom? To avoid passing the dreaded affliction of perfectionism on to my children.
So when my 9-year-old signed up to play piano in chapel, I smiled. I listened to her practice for weeks. She played the song beautifully, albeit not perfectly. And she didn’t think of backing out once.
The morning of the performance, her dad and I sat in the auditorium with the other parents of children slated to perform, as well as all the students from kindergarten to fifth grade. My daughter sat at the piano — selected as the first one to play.
Nerves were finally hitting her and she looked as awful as I felt. But I’d prepared her for this moment, despite my inner-angst. Here’s what I’d told my daughter, who loves being center stage:
- Everyone gets nervous. If you get butterflies in your tummy, just tell ‘em to fly in formation. (That morning, I gave her a big smile and then signed “butterfly” to remind her.)
- Even playing a solo, she’s not on stage alone. As she’d practiced, I stood behind her, my hands on her shoulders. “When you perform, imagine Jesus either sitting next to you or standing behind you,” I suggested. “That way you won’t feel alone.”
- It’s not performing — it’s being who God created her to be. One night as we snuggled in her bed, I reminded my daughter that her musical talent came from God. “So, when you play the piano, you are using a talent he gave you. You’re being the person he wants you to be.” I encouraged her to think of the song as a gift back to God—and assured her that God would be smiling down on her as she played, perfectly or not.
Beth K. Vogt and her husband experienced a double-dose of parenthood — three children in their 20s and a surprise fourth in their 40s. The author of Baby Changes Everything: Embracing and Preparing for Motherhood after 35, Beth edits Connections magazine.