I have a teenage daughter in tears, a mother-in-law in a snit, and a husband who refuses to run interference because he “just doesn’t understand women”. My daughter’s junior high band concert was last night. “Julia” has always been shy, and learning a musical instrument has done wonders for her self-esteem. She enjoys playing the saxophone as well as the positive attention she gets from her peers for being good at playing. She also enjoys playing in the band and being a part of something and has made many friends through her sax playing. Although she is only in the eight grade she is already hoping to join the high school jazz band. I am very proud of my daughter for all over her hard work in learning to play an instrument and in coming out of her shell.
I suppose I could have worded all of this better but before the concert last night, while we were waiting for the curtain to rise, I basically told my mother-in-law what I just told you. After the concert my mother-in-law gushed over Julia’s playing, commenting that she played “much better” than the rest of the saxophonists. Julia, remaining humble, told her grandmother that the entire section played well, but her grandmother continued to gush about how Julia was head and shoulders above the rest, much to Julia’s discomfort. Julia finally told her grandmother that she needed to “shut up”; that if she could be heard separate from the other saxophone players that meant she was either off-key or out-of-time with the other players and that she “obviously s*cked”. Julia then burst into tears and ran out to the car.
Rather than try to comfort Julia my mother-in-law acted the part of the injured party, saying she was only trying to be nice and offer Julia a compliment and that it was she who was owed an apology for Julia’s poor manners. She continued that her son was raised better than this, implying that Julia gets her bad manners from me. My husband just shook his head and said that teenaged girls are “moody, and who can understand them anyway”. Grrr!!!!
All the way home Julia refused to talk to her grandmother, who continued to comment on how teenagers today have no respect for their elders and that their language is filthy and unacceptable. Tazi, I was ready to use a few of those “filthy and unacceptable” words myself, but thankfully we reached her house just in time and dropped her off before I blew my stack on her. I then tried to reassure Julia that her grandmother meant well, and that she doesn’t know music well enough to know that she was actually offering an insult, not a compliment. Julia then got upset all over again because her grandmother was either insulting her or lying to her.
I was hoping things would blow over, but my mother-in-law called a few days later to see if Julia was “out of her snit yet and ready to apologize for her terrible behavior”. I let my husband handle the call because I was certainly not ready to do it. My daughter’s feeling were deeply hurt; her mood was improved when her band director reassured her that her performance was seamless and that she was perfectly on-time and on-tempo with the rest of her section. However, she remains upset that her grandmother would lie to her face in an attempt to boost her ego. She feels that she cannot trust her grandmother.
Julia has since offered a half-hearted apology to her grandmother for her “inappropriate language” but demanded an apology in return for the lies she was told. This set my mother-in-law off again, saying an apology does not contain the word “but”; that an elder never owes an apology to a child; and that until she receives a sincere apology from Julia she will be suspending all birthday gifts, holiday gifts, and other forms of affection. Tazi, this goes too far. I understand that a thirteen year old girl can be difficult – I live with Julia! – but she has a point; my mother-in-law lied to her, hurt her feelings, and is now acting like it was no big deal. How do I untangle this mess?
Feeling Like The Monkey In The Middle
Dear Feeling Like The Monkey In The Middle
Can I paw slap your husband…pleeeeeeaaasssseeeee? Just a gentle a one for his hands-off approach to raising your daughter? I so want to slap some sense into him so he will realize that he will never understand his daughter if he does not make an attempt to understand her!
Unless a musician is performing a solo piece it is rude and insulting to praise their playing as better than the rest of their section for the very reason your daughter points out – when you play as part of a section, individual players cannot be singled out unless they are off-tempo (playing too fast or too slow) or out of key. Both of these instances are extremely embarrassing and players who make these mistakes are usually aware of them and hoping that their audience is not. Your daughter did her best to hold it together emotionally, but at thirteen she cannot be expected to handle things as a grown adult would. While she owes her grandmother a sincere apology for her profane language and for losing her temper with an elder, she is also owed an explanation from her grandmother.
The teenage years are fraught with uncertainty, and discovering that someone you feel you should be able to trust is lying to you can be devastating. Your mother-in-law needs to be straight with Julia and apologize for her lie, explaining that she was trying to offer a compliment; that she was afraid that you would be insulted if you said you could not pick her sax playing out from the rest of the section, so she lied. Nobody is ever too old to offer someone an apology when an apology is sincerely owed.
I think a lovely way to bridge the cavern that has been created between Julia and her grandmother would be for Julia to play a few musical pieces for her grandmother, so she may hear exactly how well Julia does play. A lot of rock ‘n’ roll classics from your mother-in-law’s era have some great riffs that would sound great on saxophone! She would find them recognizable and Julia might find them fun to play. (I am partial to Joy to the World by Three Dog Night).
Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.