This weekeend was our daughter Brenda’s long awaited Piano recital. Fifteen years of piano lessons with her teacher Shirley Hanneman reached their culmination. Brenda rose to the challenge, delighting the audience with selections from Chopin, Debussy, Mozart and more. The music was quite amazing.
Afterwards several people came up to me and congratulated me — some almost in tears — commenting on how excited I must be about this day, how amazing she sounded, and how proud I must be of her for her music.
These sentiments caught me a little off guard, and I wasn’t sure why. While I thoroughly enjoyed the recital, my level of excitement about the music wasn’t what one would expect from a beaming, proud papa. I experienced the same thing an hour later at our other daughter Lexi’s 8th grade Honor Band concert.
Why was I not floating on cloud nine over these noteworthy (pun intended) musical accomplishments of my girls? I needed to reflect a bit on this. And I did.
What I’ve concluded is this: I find tremendous joy and satisfaction in my girls, but the things I treasure most about them have very little to do with their performances, abilities, good grades, and accomplishments. What thrills me most are the virtues I see being lived out in their character: a love for serving God, biblical values, the respect and love shown us, responsibility, integrity, hard work, and good stewardship of what God has given them (including their talents), etc.
If I were to be a beaming papa (and I always am!) it would be because of their daily character, not because of the talents on display last Saturday. If both of them retained their character qualities but were tone deaf, had learning disabilities, and were poor students, I would be every bit as satisfied with them.
Because the stigma of performance and success is not that important to us, we’ve tried never to pressure them towards high achievement. True, we’ve affirmed them in the use of their talents, but we’ve tried never to pressure them towards greatness. In fact, if anything, I’ve tried to lower the performance expectations, saying things like “No one can reasonably give 100% to every area of life.” “Don’t overdo things”, “Only do as much as is reasonable given your other commitments” and “Be sure you leave enough margin in your life so you can fully enjoy it.” The fact that they’re achieving such success anyways is actually ironic.
Equally ironic is my observation that many parents pressure their kids to be highly successful in sports, music, or academics, and inadvertantly cause stress, pressure, and ultimately resentment in their kids. And in doing so they miss the opportunities to cultivate the positive character qualities and virtues that are so much more important in the long run.
Am I thrilled that my kids are talented? Absolutely. But the talent itself isn’t what matters most.