I wasn’t crazy about the father. He had creepy ideas about what motivated people.
Money was the only thing that motivated him, and he assumed it was the only thing that motivated anyone else. Why money motivated him I never understood, since the family had more money than anyone could ever possibly use.
For a time, I taught both of his daughters, though I should never have taken them as students. I didn’t really like either one of them. Mostly I felt sorry for them because of their Dad.
One Sunday at church I tried to talk to him about Daughter #1’s desire to stop playing the piano and perhaps play another instrument.
“Oh, you’re falling for that garbage, are you?” he laughed. “She’s a preteen and she doesn’t have any idea what she needs to do. Just ignore what she says. She has to take piano lessons until she’s 14 no matter what.”
The only time Daughter #1 ever practiced in the entire time I taught her, was when her Dad told her he’d give her $20 if she learned O Holy Night to play for her grandfather at Christmas. Like father, like daughter. The money offered her more motivation than anything intrinsic I’d ever provided.
Daughter #2 was less untalented and only slightly less unappealing.
One day, Daughter #2 came into her lesson and announced that she couldn’t find any of her music all week. When I looked at her assignment book, every piece had a check mark on every day. All the checks had been made by the same pen, clearly in a flurry of checking-off which probably occurred in the car on the way to her lesson.
“Wow. How did you manage to practice every single piece, every single day when you couldn’t find any of the music and nothing was memorized?” I asked.
“I just did the very best I could,” she replied innocently.
One at a time, I stopped teaching the girls. I dropped Daughter #1 after she came into her lesson, tears streaming from her eyes. “I hate my father,” she sobbed. “He won’t let me quit piano. I hate piano. I hate my father!”
I called the mother later that day and informed her that I would be unable to teach Daughter #1 another lesson. She didn’t even ask me why. She just said, “OK.”
I kept Daughter #2 a little longer. One day I realized that she was lying to me all the time about everything and our entire relationship was inauthentic.
I decided that even if she wasn’t going to speak the truth, I was. I called up the mother and told her that the gig was up for Daughter #2, too. I simply couldn’t teach her any more.
There was no way to make it a comfortable conversation.
I just did the very best I could.