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The $100 Piano Lesson

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The $100 Piano Lesson

Last week I paid my daughter $100 for playing a piano song. And I don’t regret it one bit.

Since our 10-year-old turned 8, she’s had a weekly piano lesson. Her teacher doesn’t have a piano in her home, so she comes to ours—we got an old free piano a couple years ago. My daughter whined and complained about practicing, but she loves her teacher and her teaching style.

It’s $20 a lesson, but it’s worth it to us. My husband and I both took piano lessons as kids. I made it through two years, he made it through four, and now we sorta kinda play. We like to have music in our home, though, and we want the kids to learn to read and play music. (And hopefully pick up some discipline and patience along the way.)

Last fall, her teacher’s daughter was in and out of the hospital. Her teacher wasn’t available for lessons, and we totally understood. Weeks turned into months, though, and by December my daughter hadn’t had a lesson for several weeks.

I made our daughter keep practicing, but it was always a battle. I also tried to teach her, but I play like a 10-year-old myself.

One day around Christmas, I was stumbling through a version of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” My daughter teased me about playing it over and over as I tried to figure it out, so I said, “Hey, this is hard! Girl, I’d pay you a $100 if you could play this song.”

She perked up. She said, “Are you serious?” I immediately started to back pedal. Would I seriously pay my kid to play the piano?!

But I reasoned it’s a tough song! She hated to practice and I couldn’t imagine her pushing herself to play it. Plus she’d definitely missed more than five lessons, so we had more than $100 available. So I shrugged and finally told her, “Sure. Why not?”

She started trying right away. When her lessons were able to start again in January, she showed her teacher her progress with the song and we all agreed on how it needed to be played in order for it to be worthy of $100. My daughter kept practicing, and I didn’t even have to nag.

Then the pandemic hit, and her weekly piano lesson stopped again. I went back to still making sure she practiced and trying to teach her myself. But really, she mostly just wanted to keep plugging away at the ol’ Christmas carol.

Well, by June—much to my disbelief—we paid her for the song. She plays it beautifully! In fact she plays it just as well or better than I do. After sooo maaaany months of repeating it, she memorized it. (Heck, in a way the whole family has.) Best of all, the lesson wasn’t just about piano. She learned perseverance and persistence and that she could do something hard. And now she’s planning to give and save and make a plan for that money, and I couldn’t be happier.

So we spent $100 on 6 months of practicing. She may not be on her way to being Beethoven, but we feel like it was worth every penny.

Dealing with Failure

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I’m still running these days. I run just over 3 miles each day Monday through Friday and over 5 miles each day Saturday and Sunday. At lunch, I do 20-30 minutes of strength training. I LOVE the Nike app since the workouts are FREE and I can sort by how much energy I’m feeling that day. Easy? Intermediate? Difficult? Sure!

I’ve mentioned it before (repeatedly) that I exercise to keep my thoughts under control. It’s in those moments when I’m focusing on keeping my form or setting new personal records that I can ignore the craziness. Even then, do something long enough and it becomes routine. Your body adjusts and it’s not hard anymore. You have this false sense that you are in great shape because the workouts you’ve been doing for ages aren’t nearly as difficult as when you first started.

Our neighbor has a gym in their garage. Literally. A very nice gym. They had picked up our mail for us over the weekend while we were on a camping trip and we started to chat about his home gym. “That’s a nice elliptical” I said. “Hop on! Try it out!” he said.

I lasted 4 minutes and 30 seconds. Seriously. My heartrate shot sky high and I thought I was going to die. Our neighbors couldn’t stop laughing.

“If it makes you feel any better, I can’t run to the end of the block!” he said, still laughing.

I walked home, embarrassed by my overconfidence in my fitness level. As I got in bed that night, I couldn’t sleep. I run! How can I not do something as simple as an elliptical?!?! It’s the SAME movement!

The more I reflected, the more I realized that it’s the same…but different. Which makes it frustrating because I expected myself to perform well when it wasn’t something my body could do yet. I work out so I assumed that I have the strength in my muscles for the job.

I don’t.

I’m trying to lead at work during a pandemic. I’m making mistakes. I’m getting frustrated with myself, with my failure.

I’m trying to work at home for an extended period while keeping my personal space separate from my work space physically and emotionally. I’m failing.

I’m trying to keep my emotions at bay while trapped at home when I’ve spent most of my life outside work hours outdoors. I’m failing.

I’ve been great with my finances solidly since 2017 and the last few months I keep tripping. I keep making mistakes. Spending when that’s not what I usually do. I’m failing.

Friends, I’m failing. But these are muscles I’ve never used before. I can’t expect them to perform at a high level on the first try. Things that I’m normally awesome at… yeah, I’m going to suck for a while.

But I’m getting stronger. You are too.

The night after the elliptical debacle, I didn’t sleep. I reflected. In March, I was a COMPLETE disaster. In April, I was MOSTLY a disaster. May, just a disaster. June? I’ve had some rough weeks including the week from hell. But if those weeks had happened in March, the devastation would have been so much worse.

My daughter is walking around the house as I’m writing this singing ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry. It made me smile. She’s been listening to me sing it as I run and she bikes beside me. She looked at me and said “That’s your favorite song right mommy?”

“Right now? Yeah baby girl. Mommy is going to Roar…”

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