Timing is everything


Laura K. Silver is the mother of two elementary school-age children and a trustee of the Jewish Light who will be blogging for the paper’s website about marriage, child rearing, work, play, volunteering and whatever else is topical or strikes her fancy – she has no shortage of opinions. Silver is a graduate of the University of Michigan and University of Pennsylvania Law School, and is the owner of The Paper Trail of St. Louis, a financial and legal concierge service.

By Laura K. Silver

They say that timing is everything.  I’m not so sure I agree.  In cooking, timing is everything–a minute too long can destroy the perfected poached egg, a minute too short and you’re hoping you’ll survive salmonella poisoning.

But when it comes to your family, is timing really everything?  Recently my daughter participated in a recital where she didn’t do as well as she would have liked.  She was probably not as prepared as she should have been, despite my requests for her to practice.  I’m not typically one of those hounding mothers when it comes to piano, but I know from personal experience that there’s nothing worse than being in front of an audience and being unable to find the ending to your piece.  (For the record, I do like Chopin’s Nocturne but not so much on the day that happened to me.)

When the recital was over, and my daughter looked at me with disappointment, what was I to do?  Did I say “good job?”  No, it would have been insincere.  Did I say, “You should have practiced more?”  No, not at that point–unless I wanted to pour salt in a wound.  So instead I said, “It can happen to anyone.  It’s one of the challenges of a live performance.”

But later, I did say that she should have practiced more, despite her reaction–“Mooooooom!!!”  Was I wrong to speak up, or is this part of the responsibility of being a parent?  To me, my job is to tell it like it is, even when I don’t want to hurt her feelings.  Did the recital really matter in the scheme of life?  Of course not.  But the lesson to work harder and be better prepared is one that does matter, and so I spoke.  I only know that in the days that followed, she heard me.  She spent quite some time proving to herself that she could do it right. 

This got me to thinking–is there really any “good time” to bring up a bad subject whether with our kids or anyone else?  Yes and no.  Certainly the heat of the moment is never a good time to have a frank discussion, but that doesn’t mean that the discussion shouldn’t happen when things have cooled.  Sometimes you just need to speak up and have the conversation even when the timing is bad because there’s never going to be a perfect time to have it.

I think it would be a lot easier if we could just be more like eggs.