Today I was coming down the hall toward the classroom I use for my voice lessons and I could hear a commotion in the outer area where the parents wait. Normally I'm in the sound-proof practice room and can't hear what's going on in the waiting area, but I'd slipped away quickly to use the restroom between students. As I approached, it became quite clear that the mother of one of my students was tearing her young daughter up one side and down the other. I've worked with this eight year old for a little over 4 months and she's just delightful. I'm not saying kids don't do things they shouldn't or that parenting isn't frustrating (because I think parenting is absolutely BRUTAL), but it'd be obvious to anyone that this mother was completely out of line. She berated the poor kid incessantly, hardly pausing to take a breath, and when I reached the doorway of the classroom, I could see the little girl huddled miserably in a corner, her face streaked with tears. It took the woman a moment to notice me standing there speechless, mouth agape.
I was beyond irate. I'm not going to go into what she was actually saying to her daughter, but it was unbelievable. I was so shocked and upset that I didn't trust myself to say ANYTHING to the mother, so instead I asked Tara if she was ready and she quickly nodded and headed into the practice room. Once we'd left Mommy Dearest in the waiting room, I handed Tara a tissue and got her a glass of water. She stood next to the piano, in position to sing, trying to get her lower lip to stop trembling, but her eyes looked like they might overflow again, so I slid over and made room for her on the bench. "It's alright, we can take as much time as you need," I told her. She nodded and carefully sipped her water, trying to pretend like she wasn't fighting back more tears. It broke my heart. Choosing my words veeeerry carefully, I made four or five positive statements about her that directly conflicted with what her mom had been saying to her. I chose not to say her mom was wrong. I decided not to even mention her mom, but I shot down the ugly things I'd overheard being said. Then I talked a bit about other stuff to get her mind on something else, and a few minutes later she met my eyes for the first time that day and said "I can sing now."
What threw me is that I had such a different opinion of this family before all this. This mom did not strike me as a stage mom and still doesn't. I can spot a stage mom (or dad) from a mile away. I see them in action first-hand on a regular basis and I've had so much experience with them that I have developed a kind of stage parent radar (similar to gay-dar, really!). Don't get me wrong, not all parents with performing kids are stage parents. There are some awesome people. However, if parents coming to me about voice lessons trip my radar, I generally refer their kids to other voice coaches because I get my fill of stage parents while I'm directing musicals and holding auditions at the local children's theatre.
After the lesson I asked the mom to talk to me privately in the practice room. I have a well developed (and often used) speech about the fact that we sometimes get stressed out, it's very common, I often encourage families to take a little break from lessons if I see that happening, we want the kids' experience with music to be positive rather than anxiety-provoking, etc., etc. It's a speech I give more to the parents who bring kids for piano lessons, though. There seems to be a higher burnout rate with piano students.
So I brought Mom in with the intention of having that little chat, but to my surprise, it didn't go there at all. She burst into tears, told me about some very stressful things she's dealing with right now, and seemed so genuinely contrite that I actually ended up comforting her despite the fact I'd been furious earlier. On a lot of levels, I actually really get where she's coming from right now, though I didn't say so.
Later, as I made my home, I realized that in a lot of ways, I'm in the same boat as that woman. I'm not physically healthy right now. I don't know exactly what's going on, but I hope that tomorrow morning the doctor will have some ideas. I'm very stressed about my health, I'm still dealing with the unexpected deaths of two friends I grew up with, who three weeks ago decided to drive drunk and ended up wrapping their SUV around a goddamned tree, and with all that, Wren's death anniversary snuck up on me and for some reason, hit me really, really hard last week.
I suck right now, y'all. I'm over-emotional, highly reactive, and sleep deprived. I've snapped at my mother the last 10 times I've had a conversation with her. I'm randomly pissy with friends I see face to face then I talk to friends online and misread or misunderstand what they're saying and get all touchy because I'm a huge ass. Later I realize my mistake and feel guilty and awful and ashamed of myself, but the next day I do it again...*sigh* I'm sorry. I'm truly, truly sorry. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO EXCUSE FOR ME TO BE SNARKY OR BITCHY WITH ANYONE. It's not okay for me to treat people that way, and I know it. I am trying to avoid chatty things like FB and twitter when I'm feeling particularly grouchy or tired. I felt a lot better today, but I'm sure that something is wrong with me physically, hopefully it's just anemia or something easy like that.
If this keeps up, I'm going to shut down all my blogs and social networking stuff until I feel better, because I'm hurting my friendships with people I care dearly about and I can't stand that. I have my second meeting with a new therapist later this week and that's going to help too. Blogging about what's going on is great, but clearly, I need help coping with some of it, so that's going to be good. The lady seems great, I wish I'd found her months ago, because I've been out of sorts for a while now. I hate that I'm posting all this on the freaking internet, it should be private, but it isn't. It stopped being private when I became the world's biggest bitch. Lately, I've wondered who the hell I've become and what happened to the old me, the nice, sweet me. I'm done wondering, I'm sending out search parties to find the old me now. She'll be coming back. Meanwhile, I'll lay low and if I'm being a fucking bitch, please TELL me and please, please know it isn't about you. I'm just a mess right now. :(