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  • Writer's pictureNeal Hagberg

The Season of and Secret of Delight

Our daughter Madeline’s piano teacher, Mrs. McGuire, started teaching Madeline when she was four. She made it clear from the start that her goal was not to turn our daughter into Rachmaninov. Her goal was for Madeline to love playing piano for the rest of her life. Because students who are cajoled/pushed/dragged to the piano, and even those who run to it willingly, are not going to end up as the next Rachmaninov.

She made it clear that if Madeline was the kind of genius where that would happen (it didn’t) and was passionate about it and delighted in it, she would guide her there. But if that was our goal for our four-year-old, we would need to find another teacher.

We knew then we had found the right teacher for her.

This is how we look at you, or your child, as a tennis player. Our goal is not to turn you into the next Serena Williams or Roger Federer. Our goal is for you to love playing tennis for the rest of your life. There is a difference. If you become the next Serena or Roger (you won’t), we will be delighted and help you any way we can, as long as it is something you love and delight in.

As Madeline progressed from Twinkle, Twinkle to Chopin, there were times she wanted to quit. We told her we had paid for lessons through that particular season, but when the lessons were through, she was free to quit, no questions asked, but had to finish her commitment to Mrs. McGuire first. And every time she got to the end of the season, she said, I want to do this again.

Then, a funny thing happened.

We both started looking forward to the times with Mrs. McGuire, even more than the piano lessons themselves. I loved soaking in her wisdom, and Madeline loved that Judy and I would get so into life philosophy or world events, that we would forget to have Madeline play and Madeline got to sit there and listen and not play, double bonus!

One day early on Mrs. McGuire gave me the lesson (not piano, but life), something I have not forgotten, and words to take to every relationship

She said, all her parents who brought their kids love their children. But to delight in them is something different. It requires seeing through the eyes of their child. And when parents can learn this, it is a game changer for the relationship.

Now, this is delight!

When I began to see life through my daughter’s eyes, I began to delight in her no matter how different her passions were from mine. And a whole new world opened up. When I took the focus off me and what my passions were and stopped hoping they would be her passions, I not only helped free her, but myself.  My goal became different.  What did she delight in?  I would delight in that.  I found out that she didn’t delight in tennis or basketball, my two favorite sports.  But it did not disappoint me.  She took to swimming, which in my case I like to call, “keeping my head above water at all costs, staying close to the lane buoys, then hanging on for dear life until someone comes out and guides me back to the shallows”.  I never liked the sport.  But she loved it.  So I looked through her eyes and delighted at the joy she got from it.

As she discovered Polly Pockets as a little kid and insisted we play imagination games until I was falling asleep on the floor (Polly Pockets was never on my wish list of what I wanted her to delight in), she would poke me and say, “Dad!” I would wake with a start and say, “Oh, sorry, this is FUN!” I hated Polly Pockets, but I delighted in Madeline and her joy. And if she wanted to play Polly Pockets, or Magic Penny Tricks, or UNO instead of tennis or anything else that caused more than minimal movement, that’s what we did.

Madeline was very different from me. And she gave me the best education a child could give, thanks in part to Judy McGuire. See through the eyes of your child and you will discover wonders you did not know exist.

So our goal at TLC is not to turn you into the next Serena Williams or Roger Federer. It is to delight in who you are as a camper, a person, a player, and give what guidance we might have to encourage and enable that trip down the road you are on.

Now whenever Madeline comes home from wherever in the world she is living, she sits down at the piano and starts to play all those old Suzuki songs. Just like Mrs. McGuire hoped. And I sit in my chair upstairs and delight.

In this season of Light (Hannukah, Solstice, Christmas), isn’t it also a season when we let go and make it a season of Delight? We focus on what those around us most cherish and give gifts to them accordingly, not giving gifts that we would want, but that they would want, seeing the world through their eyes.

Every season can be a season of delight if we remember this.

Since the day Madeline was born, there has not been a day that I have not delighted in her. There are ups. There are downs. But I delight in who she is, and what she loves, and that has made all the difference.

Except for the Polly Pockets.


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