I was tinkering on the piano the other day, which is Baby A’s cue to drop the block she was munching on and crawl over, as fast as those tiny hands and knees would go, over to me. She pulled herself up, her nose barely making it to the piano’s keys, and down those podgy little fingers came, perfectly destroying what was left of my tune. Mr T lifted her up on my lap so she could have better access to the keys and bang on them to her baby heart’s desire. And bang she did, like any baby would, I’d imagine.
A few days after that, picture the exact same scenario, except this time, Baby A didn’t descend on the keys with the violent vigour we’ve come to expect from Her Dictatorship. Instead, her hand poised over the keys, perfectly formed, and then, with elegance – if you can associate the word “elegant” with a little monster like my daughter – she gently pressed the keys and seemed, strangely enough, to be mimicking my own hands on the piano.
Mr T was in ecstasy. “Did you see that?” I shrugged. It was a fluke. What was he suggesting exactly? “When do you think we can start teaching her to play the piano? Have you heard of anyone learning at 10 months? Do you think it’s possible? My God, I think she might be ready!”
I was about to snort in laughter at his suggestion, assuming he was making one of his notorious jokes, except there was a look of earnestness on his oh-so-serious face. He obviously required a reality check. “You’ve been trying to get her to point at her ‘nose’, count to ‘one’ and say ‘mama’, hopelessly, might I add. You think we can teach her to play the piano?” What happened to my logical, practical, rational, sane husband?
“She might be a prodigy! We have to nurture that!” And off he went, fantasising about the great accomplishments in our daughter’s future. I’d never seen him so animated. And I’d never felt so sure of one thing: I could care less if my daughter was a genius or not, had incredible talents or was just an average human being, turned out to be a world-renowned prodigy or ended up being a normal kid with a normal, average life.
Don’t get me wrong – I want greatness for this little girl who has become my entire life. But there is greatness in living a beautiful life of contentment. There is greatness in being happy. Cared for. Cocooned in the love of her family and friends. No one will be more proud than I if she turned out to be a talented musician, or a gifted artist or an award-winning geneticist. And no one will push her more than I to discover her gifts and become the best version of herself. I want her to be ambitious and hard-working, and deserving of every opportunity and blessing in her life.
But no one will love her as much as I regardless of her accomplishments, regardless of her claims to fame, whether she’s the world’s best pianist or just a girl who happens to like listening to music. The realisation that I don’t mind either way – as long as she is happy and right where she wants to be, aware of who she is and what she can achieve – was an eye-opener.
Mr T and I will provide her with the opportunities to discover whether she has hidden talents. But if it turns out she likes tinkering on the piano for her own pleasure, then I’ll let her father down gently and let her be. Because I know that all we want, her father and I, is for her to be genuinely happy and content in this complicated, challenging, cacophonous life awaiting her.
Hala Khalaf is deputy Arts&Life editor at The National
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