99: The Worst Piano Lesson Ever

99: The Worst Piano Lesson Ever

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

The Worst Piano Lesson Ever

Turn your wounds into wisdom.

~Oprah Winfrey

“Mom, remember the time you made me go to a piano lesson with a broken arm?” my elder daughter quipped. As a family, we were enjoying a lighthearted Sunday lunch, laughing over days gone by. Everyone laughed at the broken arm memory, except me. Ouch. That one stung. I don’t know what hurt the most: the fact that Megan’s arm was broken or the fact that I did, in fact, take her to a piano lesson with a fresh break. However, in my defense, I wasn’t quite as bad a mom as that story makes it sound.

I was a working mom, a high school guidance counselor by day and wife and mom of two by night. In the circus I called life, I juggled a caseload of 525 students from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and two precious daughters and a husband from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. A typical day was filled with college applications, academic problems, and teenage crises. Five hundred students meant a thousand parents or more, depending on the marital status of the family. My days began early with waking and dressing the girls, dropping them off at two different sites, and then racing to school. I was usually spotted in the parking lot where students talked to me as we walked into the building. Many mornings began with me facilitating a 7:00 a.m. parent/teacher conference where a student was usually academically at risk.

Sandwiched in the middle of the day were more phone calls, e-mails, and students knocking at my door than I could keep track of. My day usually ended with a student following me to the car, talking all the way. I would then race across town to pick up the girls. Then we were off to piano, violin, dance or church activities, snacking as we wove through traffic in the blue minivan. Thinking back, it’s all a blur, but I vividly remember the day of the broken arm.

As I picked up the girls, Megan calmly stated, “My arm hurts. I can’t lift it.”

“What happened? Why does it hurt?”

“I fell playing blind tag on the jungle gym during recess.”

“What! You mean you were playing tag on the top of the jungle gym with your eyes closed? Why would you do such a thing?” My very precocious fifth-grader responded with a shrug.

“Did you go to the nurse’s office?”

“No. I asked Mr. Smith, but he said I needed to take the spelling test. By the time the test was over, it was time to go.”

“Humm,” I grunted. Obviously Mr. Smith, Meg’s teacher, was focused on the task at hand and not listening to my child. When the bell rang, she was off to the after-school program, never having visited the nurse.

By the time we finished this discussion, we were in front of her piano teacher’s house. There was no such thing as a cellphone in those days, so my plan was to call the doctor from the teacher’s home phone while Megan attended the lesson. The lesson was already paid for, right? Might as well kill two birds with one stone, or was that two activities with one little broken arm? While on hold with the doctor’s office, I peeked around the corner to check how the lesson was going. There sat my brave girl, holding her arm up to the keyboard with her other hand. Stoically, she was doing what she was told to do. As I finished arranging for a doctor’s office visit, Meg finished her lesson with tears in her eyes.

We hurried to the doctor’s where an X-ray showed that, in fact, she did have a fractured arm. I watched her face, teeth digging into her bottom lip, while the nurses moved the arm into the right position to support it and set it.

By the time we arrived home, supper was long overdue. I hurried to pull together a quick meal while Megan told the whole story to her dad and little sister. I overheard her say, “Mom made me go to my piano lesson.” Wow, had I really done that? Perhaps Mr. Smith wasn’t the only person focused on the task and not the child. In the hustle and bustle of my life, had I seen this as another problem to hurry and solve? Had I truly been insensitive to the pain my child was in? By the end of dinner, I knew what I had to do.

Later as I helped Megan gingerly into her pajamas, brush her teeth, and climb into bed, she asked, “Mom, do I have to go to school tomorrow?”

“No, sweetheart. How about you and Mom stay home tomorrow?”

“Really? I would love that,” she exclaimed with a big smile on her face.

I called in a sick day for both of us the next day. We both had a break that needed to heal. We spent the day in our pajamas, curled up in bed together reading books and talking. By the end of the day, I knew that there was more broken here than Megan’s arm. Luckily, the broken arm would heal physically, and thankfully, the bigger broken issue would also heal. The pace I was living could slow down, and I would learn to listen to the verbal and nonverbal messages of the ones I love. It’s funny that life presents us with opportunities to reset fractures that we don’t even know are broken. I’m just glad to have caught this fracture when it could still easily heal.

~Gwyn Schneck

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