The most difficult job in the world.

As part of the children’s day service rehearsal, I met a little girl with a big voice, with whom I was to do a song item with. “Little girl, big voice” is no exaggeration – someone so small should not be able to sing as well as and as powerfully she did. Yet, for all her brilliance, yesterday’s practice was mostly technical, and strict, with a focus on all the things that would make this little 9 year old rock chick more self-conscious, nervous and inhibited. “Anna, remember the unicorn trick Amanda taught you to draw your voice out? Teach you all these tricks then never use.” “Anna, don’t lean on the table. You have all these bad habits.” “See, you talk so confidently, then you never sing like the way you talk.” “She wants to go SOTA … Anna, you got to work hard, if not you’re gonna have a very short career.” I just wanted to grab her and run off the stage and around auditorium with the track playing on the house monitors, and just really rock it out. That of course, would be immensely inappropriate – the main antagonist was her father.

It all felt somewhat familiar – this strict dad, who obviously just wants the best for his daughter, but with a focus on outcomes. It was also clear that he had invested a lot into his daughter’s singing classes, with high hopes. I would. I think it’s great to give kids a vision to work towards, for instance, it was awesome when Anna’s eyes sparkled at the mention of SOTA and our nodding approval. But who really is thinking about one’s “singing career” at 9??? And yet, I can imagine the father not really knowing any other way of motivating his daughter, because that is not the life we’ve lived. There seemed to be a deeply-rooted belief that:

  1. Coaching can be premised on precise instructing (e.g. this is how you appear natural on stage)
  2. A good performance is measured by its technical competency (hitting all the notes)
  3. Accomplishment is what we want, and is what will make us happy
  4. What we want, is what our kids want

Needless to say, I disagree with all four. I think:

  1. A big part of coaching is about confidence building, not telling the kid what to do, but to bring out the best in the kid, and show him/her that that was in him/her all this while.
  2. A technically competent performance is impressive, but rarely relateable and usually emotionally deficient.
  3. I think it’s great to have accomplishments in life, but accomplishing things aren’t the be-all and end-all of life. And in the larger scheme of things, it’s part of the journey to have hits and misses. I think it’s far more important to have an enriching process, rather to deliver the ideal performance.
  4. Kids want to have fun, we should let them have fun.

At the end of Anna’s final run-through of the night, which  was nothing short of excellent, the first thing she asked was, “where’s Daddy?” And her dad came half-jogging out (I think he was taking pictures of her from the side or something) and gave her a big hug. I thought “awww” and “that’s how fathers become the person in kids’ lives to seek approval from.” Surely, being a parent is the most difficult job in the world.


  • Anna is not her real name. It was changed in a bid to google-proof my written thoughts.
  • Of course, there are other things which makes parenting the most difficult job. For example, the very ideal of unconditionally loving your kid is a high order, and one I’m sure most parents fall short of. That is perhaps the focus of another post.

~ by moz on September 26, 2013.

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