Confessions of a Terrible Suzuki Parent

I’m a terrible Suzuki Parent.

That’s right, me. My husband Arron runs a Suzuki violin studio out of our house. I’ve watched him teach for years. We have three children, two of whom are theoretically learning how to play the violin. I have a bachelor’s degree IN MUSIC PERFORMANCE, for crying out loud, and up until last week, I was a terrible Suzuki Parent.

The term “Suzuki Triangle” is used to illustrate the relationship between teacher, parent, and child. Each member is an integral part of the child’s success as a violin student.

But…what about when you’re a homeschooling, business-owning mom of three and Daddy ALREADY PLAYS THE VIOLIN, and you sleep next to your son’s teacher? Anybody with a brain can see why I exploited this perceived loophole and completely outsourced our children’s violin education to their Daddy. The problem? Daddy isn’t supposed to be teacher and parent at once.

By removing myself from the equation, I was taking away the most important part of the Suzuki Triangle: The Parent.

Arron is a great teacher, so our eldest son was able to learn and progress on the violin, but not as fast as anyone would have liked, and it was difficult for my husband to try and be all the things for our son. When he got busy and didn’t have time to be Practice Daddy, I had no idea what to do, which was as frustrating for me as it was for Kid #1.

Arron, aka Daddy, decided that if I wasn’t going to be the Practice Mommy for Kid #1, that I MUST be Practice Mommy for Kid #2. So there I was, not going to his “lessons,” and still not totally sure what to do about the resulting 4-year-old meltdown of, “BUT I WANT TO PLAY THE WHOLE THING LIKE MY BROTHERRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!”

Attempting to jump in and out of my spot on the triangle wasn’t going very well. Okay, it was terrible. I hated it.

A quality illustration of me in the throes of Terrible Suzuki Parenting

A quality illustration of me in the throes of Terrible Suzuki Parenting

Fast foward to June 10, 2019, and all of a sudden I’m at the Memphis Suzuki Institute, Arron has just finished one training and was beginning another training, and I didn’t have a choice about being a Suzuki Parent. We were out of parents, and I had to step into an unfamiliar, uncomfortable role.

Not gonna lie, I felt like a complete and total fraud. There were all these other mommies there, clearly alert and dedicated to their children’s success.

They went to lessons. They took notes. They practiced with their kids. Me? I barely made it in the door with everything I needed, under-caffeinated, socially awkward, and thinking about the Laundry Monster eating our couch after Daddy being at training the week before.

The first thing we did was a masterclass with a lovely teacher named Amanda Schubert, and I sort of cringed as I told her, “I’m really new to this. I have been totally absent from his violin education. You’ll have to help me.”

Kid #1 in his lesson :)

Kid #1 in his lesson :)

Before I knew it, that Suzuki Institute completely changed my life.

My coffee kicked in, I got over myself, and I pulled my notebook out like the good musician that I am. I took notes. I watched and absorbed. I made it my mission to go mining for ideas for Arron’s studio. This isn’t so bad. I guess I can be a Suzuki Mom. I can take notes. People do this every day without a music degree. You can do it, Abby.

When I took my place in the Suzuki Triangle, I realized I had been missing out on so much. By removing myself from the equation, I had removed myself from the joy of participating in my son’s learning and growth.

I got to see my kid smiling and enjoying the violin, making new friends, and eager to go to his next class. We practiced at home, armed with the detailed notes and videos I’d taken. Daddy didn’t have to be the teacher for a week. I made a new friend or two and reconnected with old ones. It was exhausting, but wonderful.

“Smile, kiddo, so we can show Daddy what we worked on today!”

“Smile, kiddo, so we can show Daddy what we worked on today!”

On Wednesday, I went to a parent talk, titled The Importance and Value of the Suzuki Parent. I came out a better mom.

The speaker was a piano teacher trainer with years of wisdom and experience. She spoke about what she expects of her parents, the boundaries she has set, and how we can help our children. Tears fell as she talked about pouring into our children, loving and cherishing them. About commitment and consistency. About parenting with understanding and grace.

I went home that day and sobbed. I’d been a Terrible Suzuki Parent, but not anymore.

That precious woman who gave that talk took the time to hug me, encourage me, and listen to me as I cried and shared my feelings of guilt and overwhelm. All I could see in front of me were the VERY BIG CHANGES that needed to happen, and they were scary! But Rita? She told me that it would be hard, but she believed in me. That I could do it. It was going to be okay.

We agreed that Arron can be Kid #1’s teacher, but I have to be the parent in our family’s Suzuki Triangle. It’s been a bit of an adjustment for the kids (and me) learning how to practice with Mommy, but we’re all settling into our new roles and Doing The Thing.

Our family’s situation is different than most, but you don’t have to be a musician or the spouse of a violin teacher to be a Great Suzuki Parent.

Nobody’s perfect, and there will always be ups and downs, but let me encourage you:

You will never regret showing up and pouring into your child.

If you are committed to help your child, you can succeed. Take notes. Ask questions. Be engaged during your child’s lesson. Don’t forget to smile- they’re watching you, Mom and Dad. Figure out the best time to practice and stick to it. Consistency reduces conflict. Empathize with and validate your child while providing the structure they need to have a great practice time.  Cherish them. Cherish them. Cherish them! This time is not insignificant, it is not wasted, and you are doing important work. I believe in you.

-Abby Powell is the wife of Arron Powell and mother to their three children.

P.S.- You’ll also never regret showing up at the Memphis Suzuki Institute ;)

Arron/Daddy (blue shirt in the back) and Kid #1 at the final Play-Down of the 2019 Memphis Suzuki Institue

Arron/Daddy (blue shirt in the back) and Kid #1 at the final Play-Down of the 2019 Memphis Suzuki Institue

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