Years ago, I saw this silly Hong Kong movie about a man who broke into another man’s house only to be caught and bound by the latter’s obese, diaper-wearing, adult son. The imbecile’s father would later reveal to the would-be-burglar that he had once hoped to sire a good-looking genius with his wife’s looks and his brains. What happened was that his son got his terrible looks and his wife’s non-existent brains instead.
It’s a scenario that tickles me even as I contemplate what to do with a child that looks like His Royal Highness but acts like me: Amanda. The problem, which you might think is no problem at all, is that her teachers from prep until now in grade 2, have been consistently saying that she can do harder work, if she applies herself. Like the child that I was, she is doing everything but making the most of her talents.
I remember my mother having the same conversation with my first music teacher, our neighbour, three years after I started having lessons with the latter. I began shortly after I turned five, on a baby-grand Petrof that my mother bought with her divorce money, but unlike my cousin who joined me sometime later, showed no inclination of going for grading even though my teacher assured my mother that I was certainly capable.
While my cousin willingly practised for up to four hours a day, my mother had to nag me into playing one. Two hours was the longest I would bang on the piano before bolting off to go and play. During music theory time, I would doodle Chinese gold ingots and Garfield’s face all over the page. My school homework once had the line “End of Movie” written by yours truly, in Malay, at the end of it.
So how do you fix your child when your parents were unable to fix you? I suspect the answer lies in understanding my own lack of motivation as a child. Everything was too easy. I was one of those people, prone to daydreams, who got things right on the first go. When I woke up I was in standard five, struggling with decimal points. The great difference between Amanda and I, is that I recognise this danger. Fortunately, she has no competitors for my attention and we can work on getting her excited about learning.