Friday, November 05, 2010

A Little at a Time, and Day by Day

Every week as I sit in my children's music lessons, I am reminded of the power of preparation.  And not in the way you'd think.  Of course I realize that practice during the week makes for a much better lesson.  As a music teacher myself, I can always tell who practices and who doesn't, who comes to lessons prepared and who doesn't even remember what is going on.

But during my children's lessons, another point presents itself, and I have been pondering on it because it is really frustrating.  For instance, during last week's violin lesson, Bria didn't do so well on her scales, because she didn't really work on them that week.  So, in an effort to be better for yesterday's lesson, she worked her little tail off on her scales.  She still did everything else she was supposed to do, just not quite as diligently as she did her scales.

So yesterday, after she played her scales wonderfully, the teacher said "That's great," and moved on to something else.  Unfortunately, one of the things she decided to move on to was something that Bria wasn't prepared to do.  Partly because she worked so hard on scales and partly because she didn't really know she should have been playing through that piece at all.  So, she didn't do very well.   And then her teacher took a lot of extra time out to help her with things she really should have known.

And all the time I'm sitting in  my chair, silently frustrated because I know that Bria practiced harder than usual this week.  I swear, this scenario plays out week after week in both violin and piano lessons and it is so frustrating!  I want my kids to go into just one music lesson and feel successful in every single thing the teacher asks them to do.

And I am always disappointed.

Life can be quite similar.  I am so attuned to my failings day in and day out, that I just kind of breeze by the things I'm doing well.  And then I decide that I am going to be better in a particular aspect of my life, like yelling, and I really work on it and I focus on it and I do improve.  Only to fail in something else that I overlooked while trying so hard to be calm, cool and collected.  

And yet, certainly I can't be expected to focus on all of my weaknesses at one time.  That would kill off even the most perfect among us, I'm afraid.  

The thing is, in the music lessons, progression eventually happens in all areas.  I just forget to realize that. Scales are good this week, but the Becker Gavotte wasn't.  Next week scales will still be good and so will the darn Gavotte, but maybe now sight reading will not be so hot.  And so the cycle continues.  Unless Bria finds four hours a day in which to practice, she just isn't going to be able to perfect everything all at once.  Maybe the scales really are enough for this week.

And maybe not yelling is enough for now and I don't need to get down on myself because I still have other weaknesses while I have focused on that one.  Because guess what?  I rarely yell anymore.  And now I am free to focus on something else (probably eating more healthily)(or learning to say no)(or giving up on perfection).  I need to recognize my successes even as I realize I have weaknesses and then work on things a little at a time and day by day.

A little at a time, and day by day
These small acts of duty build a will of which I'm master
A little at a time, I'm on my way
I'll learn as I meet demands,
Yield to the right commands,
Make more than just a start, 
Follow a daily chart 
to discipline my will
In every way.
I'll learn to live my life the proper way.
And so I say
I'll find a way
Just a little at a time...

(That's just a cheesy song I once sang when I was in a fireside group way back when.  It started going around and around in my head as I was writing this and, man, does it ever apply! Only, it's been so long that I'm not really 100% sure the lyrics are right, but you get the gist.)


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Lara Neves
Lara Neves

Lara is mom to three daughters—two teens and a tween. She loves to share her parenting and homemaking triumphs and failures here at Overstuffed! She was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2015 and has been fighting it ever since. When she isn't working on her mother of the year award, you can find her reading, singing, or taking photos.


  1. You are such a good Mom... I just keep thinking "baby steps" in everything I do... Good Luck! :)

  2. This is huge. It's so hard not to focus on the things that aren't going well. I went to bed feeling horribly discouraged just the other night because I felt like there were so many parenting things I was not accomplishing... so many lessons I thought my kids needed to learn that I was failing to teach. When I said my prayers that night, I received a sweet and peaceful conformation that the Lord doesn't expect us to be perfect, so we shouldn't expect it of ourselves either. The discouragement was lifted and I realized I just have to my best, and God's grace and mercy will make up for the rest.

    If only I could remember the peace of that feeling ALL the time, and constantly apply it in my life...

    lovely, thought provoking post, Lara. As always.

  3. Sometimes we just look at things from "the wrong direction"! Look at what you ARE learning, even ever so slowly! Look back and see where you came from, WOW, it is tremendous!!

    Weaknesses were meant to take us to our Fatehr for help. Trusting that he WILL take things from us, or trusting he will help us is sometimes so difficult to see how that works. But it does! I love you all there in Houghton!

  4. Lara, have you ever had a student who wouldn't sing unless you were playing their part along with them? I get students who seem to think the music is tattooed onto my forehead; their necks are on a swivel as they are constantly checking my response in their quirky game of 'hotter, colder'.

    As a music teacher, I am very attuned to the fact that a student will finish learning a difficult piece, and their 'reward' is a turn of the page, and voila! Another difficult piece to learn.

    But what is remarkable is that, in simply pointing out to our kids (not their teachers) that they did do well on X,Y,Z helps them develop that internal balance that is often lacking in the intensive relationship between instructor and student. My job is to encourage - absolutely - but it is also to critique, push, raise the bar, and keep up the momentum.

    I think that's life's job, too. And a healthy relationship with God, with ourselves (which includes acknowledging our strengths) and with others who are supportive and encouraging all help create that balance. If we keep checking in with "life" to see how we're doing, we're going to fall short. We have to look inside, and to trusted sources of support, to get that positive sense of balance.

  5. Two questions: First, how soon did you start her on violin? I'm really thinking it might be the right instrument for my five-year-old. Second, do you always sit in on lessons? Should I be going to Harry's piano lessons with him?? AM I FAILING AS A MOTHER???

  6. You are such a good mother. Really. I hate when my kids are working on something, trying so hard to do everything well, and something small that they aren't doing right gets pointed out to them, completely side stepping what they have been doing well. *Sigh.*

    When I grow up, I want to be just like you.

  7. I like what your Mom said. She always has very wise advice. I so feel you on this post. I feel like I've been doing good in some areas, then it all goes to pot sometimes when things just pile up, ya know?

    You're a wonderful Mother and person. love you.

  8. Lara,

    I am just happy when Kaleigh talks to the violin teacher! I am celebrating that she has finally seems to understand the value of practicing and progressing. It only took 4 years!

    I am trying to be more diligent about helping her with practice, but it seems like we just finished with the lesson and it's Thursday again.


  9. I love this post. I feel this way all the time- like I'm living a game of Whack-a-Mole and NOT winning the tickets! I have not great words of wisdom- just an 'I get it'.

  10. Just stumbled on this post. Life isn't easy is it? And parenting is definitely not easy. I've discovered over time that if my boys enjoy what they are doing, they will do it regularly and well.

  11. Terrific post. It sounds like we share a lot of the same weaknesses...a dubious honor. :)

    A wise woman I visit-teach said her goal is always just to be 5% better. 5% is not overwhelming. 5% is doable. It's the same idea as a little at a time...ultimately, all those 5%s will add up to 100. And that will be amazing.

  12. Man, SOOO true! I see this w/ my kids' piano lessons all the time (#3 beats herself up when she finally nailed one song, only to mess up on her arpeggios or whatever).

    But I hadn't thought of how it applies to life. THANKS!

  13. My youngest attends lessons alone now, so the stress of what you mentioned here in relation to that is over for me. But I so relate to your metaphor for life. I need to focus and forgive myself when I can't be perfect all at once. It is so hard.

  14. I just have to say--did every single composer write a Gavotte? I am sick of playing Gavotte this and Gavotte that. How about another waltz or a good hip hop number? I swear, there are not a enough good hip hop violin pieces!

  15. I love the thoughts behind this. I do the same thing a lot, but now I will work on not letting it frustrate me, but instead see how far I'm moving overall (however slowly).

  16. I'm starting to feel like you're my personal guru. This is amazing, and even though I fall into the trap of focusing on my failings all the time, I've never thought of it like this before.

    Every time I come here you inspire me!