Mother and Daugther Disagreements About Practicing the Piano

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, August 7, 1913:  Ma threatens me with my music and wants me to practice more.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Whew, an 18-year-old and her mother in a battle of wills over practicing the piano  feels like a recipe for disaster.

Grandma only began taking lessons in June. Yet this is the second diary entry where she mentions  that her mother wanted her to practice more.  One July 26 she wrote:

Ma wanted me to keep digging at my music this morning. I don’t like to practice very well.

Grandma was a young adult—and you’d think that she won’t have begun taking lesson unless she was really motivated to learn to play. And, that she would have been responsible to making her own decisions about whether or not to practice.

However, Grandma’s mother bought the piano for her in the Spring (and undoubtedly spent a lot of money on it), so I suppose that she felt like she also had a stake in ensuring that Grandma practiced.


16 Responses

  1. Yes and Helena was only 18. My daughter is almost 20 and I’m still learning how to let her make her own decisions!

  2. Things must have been different as far as piano lessons went back then. I agree that it seems odd that Grandma would have begun lessons at her age unless it was something SHE wanted to do!

  3. ohoh, having a sulky teenager in the house, who is sooooo bored and yet does’t want to make the most of an expensive piano. Recipe for an excellent mother vs daughter quarrel!

  4. Ha, been there/done that. Except I was 13 and it was an Organ. I used to skip out of class and play pinball at the burger joint instead. Silly me! Why I wouldn’t guess that the teacher would phone home…dah!

  5. Too bad. I remember my grandmother telling me that playing the piano was good because you could always play at parties and such. My grandmother was a bit older than yours.

  6. i wonder ifyour grandma played the piano into her later years and when you were little. Or had she given it up? Some things stick with us, especially if our parents encourage us to practice.

  7. Sounds like she wanted to be somewhere else even if she did want to play the piano! Sheryl, did you ever hear her play? :)

  8. So hard for a mom who has the advantage of “rear view vision” to find a way to tell a daughter, “If you just do this now, in your later years, you will be so glad you did.”

  9. Oh, dear. She’s really struggling with piano lessons.

  10. My mother and I had the same practice your piano lessons discussions. I hated the piano teacher because she used to bang my hands and fingers down on the right keys. My fingers still hurt, but in these days, I do believe it it arthritis.

  11. Playing the piano was still considered the marks of an accomplished young woman when Helena was young. I think I can understand the pride and enjoyment her own Mother would get from hearing her play and seeing the reactions of others who came to visit.

  12. She wanted her to get something out of the money spent, I’ll bet.

  13. Hi Sheryl. I can empathise with Helena. I loved to play, but I always hated to practice. Now I love to practice, but my husband hates to hear me play (not enough practice) …. Ha… Jane

  14. […] the past Grandma often struggled to practice her piano lessons.—even when she didn’t seem particularly busy.  On the days when she “worked for wages” and […]

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