For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Out of tune

Myrna definitely has a musical talent.
Even when she was only a few weeks old she would move her hands to music and we used to say that one day she’d be a famous conductor. When she was four she’d spend a few hours each week with a friend of ours, who taught several musical instruments. There Myrna would play viola da gamba, harpsichord and any other instrument she could lay her hands on. And she would sing.
Our friend told us Myrna had perfect pitch.
A year after we came to England Myrna started singing and recorder lessons with Mrs Y, who after a few lessons confirmed that Myrna was ‘a natural talent’. Under Mrs Y’s excellent guidance Myrna has developed her talents and has sung in several concerts, festivals and even done her first ever exam last year, coming out with nothing but high marks and distinctions.
After passing her exam she said to me: “Mum, I now believe that I can really sing. I mean, you say I can sing, but you’re my mother and you love me. Same goes for dad, granny and my friends. But now the examinor has said it too, so it must be true.”
The good, and in my eyes most important thing is that she genuinely enjoys singing. Last Friday night she was singing solo in a concert in a church and afterwards people came up to her, saying the inevitable: “I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot of you, you’re going to be a famous singer one day.”
But she’ll answer that she doesn’t want to sing for a living, because she likes it too much. And she wouldn’t want to have to do things and sing songs she doesn’t like and go places she doesn’t want to go, just because she’s a singer (she's been watching X-factor and was horrified by what some of the contestants have to go through).
When she thinks about her future, she can see herself teaching singing, breeding cats or starting an animal rescue home and designing clothes for a living, and singing in her spare time. As a hobby.

It’s amazing that she perseveres her singing in our house. Because eventhough Ken and I encourage her all the time and really enjoy listening to her, Owen most certainly doesn’t.
Owen, among many other talents, has Asperger Syndrome. Which means he has extremely (over)sensitive senses, the most developed one being his hearing. When Myrna sings a high note - she is a very powerful soprano - it almost literally hurts him. He shrinks away and has to cover his ears. That’s on a good day. You don’t want to be around on a bad day.
So consequently Myrna only sings when and where he can’t hear her. She now knows and understands what makes him react the way he does, but still, it’s not very nice for her. When Owen is away to Kielder or anywhere else, Myrna practically sings from the moment he leaves the house till the moment he comes back.

Big sister AL has not got any problems with the singing itself, but finds it - in her own words - difficult that everybody always seems to be on about Myrna’s singing, as if she (AL) and the things she does don’t exist or do not matter. She is, she admits, slightly jealous. She’ll only comment on Myrna’s singing when she hears something go wrong or when she doesn’t like a particular song. Not very encouraging.

And then there’s me, Libra mother, trying to explain everybody to everybody, trying to keep the peace and at the same time give each of them the space they so much need.
I find it really difficult that my childrens’ talents aren’t tuned in to each other.
Friday morning, Myrna was nervous about the upcoming concert. She was in the kitchen with me, drawing, and at the same time going over her songs in her head, because she was afraid she’d forget the words.
At the same time Owen and his friend J were playing a game of Lord of the Rings on the kitchen table. Owen was losing big time. And he doesn’t like losing. He was desperately trying to keep his cool, but it wasn’t easy.
Myrna was not aware of this all going on, being very focused on her own things. And at a certain moment she started humming her songs.
I felt the tension building up, but before I could think of a clever way to interfere, Owen slammed his fist on the table and shouted “Shut up!” to Myrna.
Who got the shock of her life and burst out in tears. And then started screaming at him.
Two totally frustrated children. And I was frustrated too, because I’d felt it coming and I just hadn’t been quick enough to prevent it.
I asked Owen and J to take the dogs for a walk and get some fresh air and I sat and talked with Myrna until she’d calmed down and then went through the songs with her. When Owen came back he apologised to Myrna (I'm sure J whispered something is his ear, he's a true friend) and she gracefully accepted.

That night at the concert a few of the orchestra’s violinists were slightly out of tune, to put it mildly. For Myrna that’s sheer torture, but she sat through it bravely, a big sigh of relief when it was finished. She then turned to me and said: “Good thing Owen isn’t here, he’d really go berserk and run out!”
It was one of these moments where I'm aware that, eventhough my children may have conflicting talents, they are so lucky to have each other. If they now learn to accept and live with each other, they will at one moment be ready to cope with the rest of the world!

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