Other People’s Eyes

I’m seeing Zoe through other people’s eyes this month, and it’s an education. Day to day we live together and I know her intimately, but I seldom am able to step back and really see her as others do. We spent two weeks in a cabin in Vermont with my mother and my siblings, and are now up in Michigan staying with a marvelous host family for a week and a half. We will have new hosts for two nights this week for a runout concert, and at the end of this month we’ll be in Ohio at yet another host’s home for two more weeks. Because she’s sociable and delightful and adorable, she is the object of everyone’s attention, of course, and watching other people watch her I can see another side.

I have noticed this tendency on the oboe, too. As soon as I ask a colleague to listen to me, I become horribly aware of the little inconsistencies in my playing. The feedback I get from them is helpful, but the self-awareness is almost more so. Practicing alone, little things can creep in – clumsy slurs, raw tone colors on individual notes, chunky attacks. As soon as someone else is there I become hyper-aware of those details, and am only then able to fix them. I should be able to record myself to hear such things, but it is very difficult for me to put on my “outside” ears just for myself. I catch things most easily when I’m being embarrassed by my own playing, not before.

Similarly, it takes having a houseful of people for me to realize how far off Zoe is from really sleeping properly. She goes down effortlessly probably 4 nights a week, and cries and wails on the other 3. She wakes up at 2 – not every night, but probably 3 times a week – and feeds and goes immediately back down. This is so much better than the first 7 or 8 months of her life that I just figured the sleeping problems were fixed. What’s a little bedtime crying, you know? But here where other people can hear her and judge – even if they don’t judge – I am eager for her to be perfect in every way. Going to bed at 8:30 and sleeping till morning doesn’t seem like too much to ask, but we’ve never really asked it of her before, or not regularly. Or at least, we’ve had patience with her lack of success. And if we were still at home I probably would never have noticed. We are sleeping in other people’s homes this whole month, though, and I’m definitely a little nervous about the sleeping.

I can’t help feeling like a bad mother if my daughter is crying. But also I can’t make her go to sleep – that’s something she has to do herself. I can nurse her until she is drowsy and relaxed but ultimately she is the one who has to let go and sleep. If she refuses then my hands are tied. She will only nurse for so long – eventually she gets full. I’m used to having a fair amount of control – even with Zoe when she was a tiny baby I could always quiet her with snuggling or nursing. Now, though, she is her own person and I have to realize that I cannot control her. I can set the schedule and put her in a quiet dark place and give her a relaxing bath and give her the opportunity to settle down, but the last part – the actual falling asleep – is up to her.

Scroll to Top