The boys have been begging for piano lessons. I want them to learn to play, so this was wonderful. I had concerns, though. I was a little scared of my piano teacher when I was in elementary school. She did not put up with hijinks, and I didn’t know from hijinks. Not compared to the stuff my darlings dream up. But another mom I know said she loved their piano teacher, and she was close to home, so we made an appointment for an intro lesson.
I went home and said, “PAUL. I think she was GENETICALLY ENGINEERED for us. She has three boys and two of them are the same age as ours and she acts like their behavior is TOTALLY NORMAL. And her one son has a Nerf gun library so they can swap out their own Nerf guns and try new ones.”
What I didn’t say, but also adored, was that not everything was perfect. I do not mean that her house was trashed, or gross. But you could see little scuffs in the drywall, even under fresh paint. She’d apologized for the weeds coming up through the walkway as we came down the hill toward the basement door where the studio is located. They were having it replaced soon, and she’d just kind of given up, she said.
I was delighted. Perfectly put-together houses and yards are terrifying. Not only do I have to try to keep track of what the boys are doing and whether it’s potentially destructive, I’m running a constant reel in my head of what my own home looks like, and the comparison never leaves me feeling good. It’s exhausting.
Every week, when we go to piano, one boy goes into the studio and the other scampers off to sit under a half-constructed fort and pick off imaginary enemies. They switch halfway through. I sink into what I think of as the parent couch and … don’t worry about it. For an hour or so, I’m not overwhelmed by the feeling of failing anyone. Sometimes I even relax enough to read a novel.
My internal narrative had been extra harsh last week, and when I pulled into the drive and saw that the grass was a little long – just like ours – I was nearly giddy. God bless them, I thought, for not having the time for perfect grass. I wonder if anyone has ever written an ode to a piano teacher. When I settled into the parent couch, I googled “structure of an ode,” and here we are.
Ode to the Piano Teacher
Your dwelling is not flawless, nor your turf
We enter past a broken water tank
The weapons strewn across the floor are Nerf
You merely laugh when my son’s socks are rank
The pristine paint upon your walls is marred
By battles waged in which none call retreat;
Despite three boys and noise that does not cease
Your good cheer is unscarred
And so I rest both artifice and feet
In this imperfect dinged-up place of peace