Au Pair Appreciation: Listening Becomes Inspiration

by cv harquail on February 7, 2014

I am writing to celebrate our au pair from last year, “L,” for her kindness, her thoughtfulness, and her patience.

She was new to us in the fall, just as our then-10 year old daughter was beginning to play the viola.  After the initial fun of a new instrument wore off, the first few weeks of practicing did not go well; they entailed a lot of struggle and cajoling, with me first suggesting practice and then encouraging it and finally requiring it.

The violin practice turned into a struggle between my daughter and me, and no one was happy with the situation.

autumnal strings kathy hare
Of her own volition, our au pair began to ask my daughter not if she would practice her viola, but rather if she would please play for her.  
This simple switch of the phrasing turned around the entire idea of practicing: no longer was it about our daughter having to work on something, on her own, to learn for a lesson or for orchestra; instead, it became about our daughter doing something that was presented as a great treat: giving others the enjoyment of her music.
Of course at this time, “Mary had a Little Lamb” and “Three Blind Mice” were the extent of her repertoire, but our au pair sat and listened and appreciated each afternoon as though she were listening to the most beautifully played Beethoven or Bach.  Practice went from being a chore that our daughter “had” to do, to being a much-anticipated activity that the two of them relished participating in together.
A year plus later, this au pair has returned home for university, but our daughter’s skill at the viola has continued to take off, and her pleasure at practicing has not lessened, as our current au pair has continued the approach the last one so sweetly modeled.
Thanks to this lovely former au pair, our daughter now has a very clear sense of what it means to practice: to give enjoyment to herself and others by sharing her music.  This is something she will hold for the rest of her life, and we will always be grateful to “L” for this gift.


~~~~~  Look at this lovely illustration that I found!  Autumnal Strings by Kathy Hare, for sale on Etsy!

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