"I hate that you're a singer!" my oldest son, Jackson, said with tears and trembling voice one evening when I announced that I would be leaving to perform out-of-town. This was not an uncommon routine a few years back. It ripped my heart out to hear him declare that he hated one of the most defining aspects of my personality. Still, something had to change, and I knew that something was me.
While I have not balanced my life as a singer-songwriter very well in the past, I am learning. Admittedly, I have beaten myself up for mistakes made and time lost with my family during seasons of stress. Truly, the days when Jackson is resenting my singing, are my least balanced. But beating myself up is not the answer nor is giving up this gift that God has granted me.
My son is a great teacher. When I can tell that he is feeling anxious and insecure, I know that I must slow down and simplify. Over time, things have drastically improved as I have noticed how my behavior effects his. Now instead of a broken heart, my heart melts to see that he has hung my autographed picture on his wall or when he tells me, "I'm so glad that you're a singer because all my gifts come from you." The learning curve has been well worth it.
Having gifts and letting our children see how we use them is essential to their upbringing. My sister-in-law Cami, a gifted photographer, recently expressed that being a mother to her daughter Jane, and a professional at the same time can be such a frustrating balancing act. "Am I a mother or am I a photographer?" she shared her thoughts out loud one day. She has contemplated giving up photography so that she can focus all her energy on raising Jane. While this may absolutely be the right answer for some, I propose that it is still possible to be both if you so desire. As an outsider I can see so many positive benefits that her photography has had on her daughter. For one, she has the most exquisite documentary of her daughter's upbringing (you've never seen so many gorgeous photos of a toddler). On photo shoots where Jane has accompanied Cami, she has been able to observe her mother interacting with others professionally. Work trips that bring her home to Utah allow Jane to bond with her grandparents and cousins. These are all such treasured experiences!
Raising Jackson with the influence of music has also had it's positive rewards. He sits at the piano for long periods of time and composes or plays movie themes by ear. He has taught himself to sing harmony during our bedtime songs. He is collecting different instruments and has made it known that he is starting a band. I wonder, had I given up music long ago when the road seemed too hard, would Jackson be this way? Perhaps. But, children are great imitators and they tend to recreate the familiar. If I am stressed and anxious about things, I can usually count on him recreating similar feelings. If I am balanced and enjoying motherhood along with writing and performing, then I notice a definite increase in his self confidence.
I think of the times when I brought Jackson, as a baby, to my voice lessons or Concert Choir rehearsals during college. Not easy. I wanted to die when I brought him to a sound check at the Marriott Center and he knocked over a bunch of expensive sound equipment on stage. Then there have been the road trips to out-of-town performances; fits in the car, sleepless nights in shared hotel beds, with little feet kicking me in the shins. It's so easy to feel exhausted by things in the moment, but now I'm just so grateful that these experiences are mostly good memories for him. Surely, by including him in this process his personality is being shaped into something beautiful. And if that's the case, then I hope there are a thousand more sound checks, road trips, and shared beds with my little man.