Perfect Harmony—Raising a Songbird Without Losing Your Own Voice 


father playing guitar while mother and child sing along

When I was pregnant with our first child, my husband, a musician at heart, would put headphones on my belly each night, rejoicing as my bump would begin to undulate under his hand to the sounds of  Pink Floyd’s, Dark Side of the Moon. When “Great Gig in the Sky” played and the singer’s voice would ebb and flow, rise and fall, our child would respond. As soon-to-be parents, we were just positive that our baby had rhythm, that we couldn’t possibly be imagining that the rolls and kicks in my womb were on beat to the music and that our little musical prodigy would change the world with her powerful vocalization. My husband and I sang along, feeling the first joys of sharing something we loved deeply with our child.

Well, as babies do, our daughter did change our world with her very vocal cries, especially at her “crying time” of 7:30 PM. EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. And was it a coincidence that this nightly crying episode was at the same time of night that we had put the headphones on my belly before she was born? As new parents, it took us way too long to figure out that perhaps if we played “her song” on the stereo and rocked her, she would soften her tense little muscles and quiet her vocal plea for what we now know she already loved, music. We would dance with her in our little living room, taking turns singing her favorite lullaby into her tiny little ear as the music played, while the other parent sat staring on the couch, partly exhausted and partly exhilarated.

And our daughter only grew in her love of song. Her first “performance” for us was a song from the Barney show called “Me and My Best Teddy Bear” when she was two. We were sitting on the couch one morning drinking our coffee when she dragged her little rocking chair right in front of the television and placed her teddy bear in it. She sang the song, mimicking the moves from the show exactly. Truly, our daughter sang her first words.

She sang and we quietly listened, our voices still and our hearts swelling.

Her next performance was to sing into her hairbrush on our bed, mimicking the Faith Hill video for the song, “This Kiss,” though at three, she called it “Kiss Kiss.” In the video, Faith is swinging on cherries and jumping on giant flowers. Our mattress served her purposes for her performance of the song perfectly.

She sang and we quietly listened, our voices still and our hearts swelling.

As our daughter grew up, we spent hours in theater chairs during musicals she was in and even more hours in the car driving to Los Angeles as she was hired to perform in commercials and television shows. We stood backstage time and time again as she sang her heart to an audience. We would stand in church, week after week, as she sang with the worship team.

She sang and we quietly listened, our voices still and our hearts swelling.

At her high school graduation, our daughter sang a beautiful song to her classmates about simultaneously staying connected and moving on.  Three months later, our joyful, excited daughter left for college. We transitioned well, supporting her and each other and her little brother as we embraced our new normal. We continued having dinner at the table together with just one less plate, we had nightly Face Time calls, and we took lots of trips to Los Angeles to visit. Our nest was a little roomier, but still just as joyful and happy.

But moms know what happens next as we occasionally look back and realize how fast our kids are growing and changing; out of nowhere comes a wave of memories that pulls us under for a moment, catching us off guard before we can take a breath. And this doesn’t happen to just moms of teens or new adults. Even with our little ones that are just learning to walk, we look back and reminisce at our baby’s first crawl, and the wave of time washes over us. When our newborn has their three-month birthday, we think to ourselves, “Wow, blink of an eye.” These bittersweet waves of feelings are an occurrence that just goes hand in hand with motherhood.

My wave happened the first time we went to church after our daughter went away to college, when the worship team started to sing. My husband, son, and I stood with the congregation as the music started, and, as the singer-that-wasn’t-our-daughter began the first notes of her song, my heart felt like it cracked in half. Tears welled up. I could not sing.

She sang and we quietly listened, my voice stuck in my throat and my heart hurting.

But I was feeling something else, something I couldn’t figure out at that moment. It was a tickle deep in my belly, kind of like the butterfly wing tickles I felt the first time I could feel my babies kick. I breathed in deeply and closed my eyes, trying to figure out what my heart was trying to tell me. And also trying to not cry so I didn’t embarrass my teen son, who was looking at me from the corner of his eye, saying without words, “Pull it together, Mom!”

I was quiet all day, deep in thought. My husband was worried and kept asking me if I needed anything, my son was unusually subdued, not sure what to do with his typically enthusiastic mother. I told them I was okay, just working my brain through something that I couldn’t put my finger on. My son asked me if I wanted to take a drive.

In the car, my son turned on the radio and started singing a country song as we pulled out of the driveway and pulled onto the road that would lead to our favorite long drive route through our local mountain range.

He sang and I listened quietly, my voice still and my heart healing and realizing.

“Sing with me, Mom,” he said.

I opened my mouth. No words and no notes came out.  I listened to my boy continue singing and smiled. I didn’t want to sing when he was singing because then I wouldn’t be able to hear him singing. I didn’t want to miss his voice singing, so I kept mine quiet.  

Suddenly, I realized I had forgotten how to sing for myself. I had been spending so much time absorbing and loving every minute of my daughter’s 18 years of singing, not wanting to miss a note, that I forgot how.

As moms, this is what we do; we pour our souls into the upbringing of our children. This is not a bad thing, it is not a criticism of our methods. I say this with pride. This is the commitment we are making when our babies are born. It’s a gift, and often a reciprocal one. We give every moment and all our energy to our families, and our children thrive and learn to, one day, fly on their own.

But there will always be that moment when our nest isn’t quite as full and feisty as it once was; when the chirping baby birds are hopping around on the branch just outside of the nest, then ultimately, flying in the sun-filled sky and finding their own way. This is the joy and reward that we have given all of our energy to achieve. And we somewhat suddenly and abruptly discover that we are sitting in our nest, still a very viable human, trying to remember what we did before the nest was messy and full of little bodies.

I remembered in that moment that I did use to sing. I remembered that I shared that love of singing with my new babies when they were colicky, or when my little toddler was cranky in the car to help him calm down. I cannot count how many rounds of “You are my Sunshine” I sang at three in the morning while holding babies with fevers. There are moments I cannot number where I sang songs with my little performer, helping her to memorize her parts. There were even times when our daughter would want to sing at a family event and then get shy and freeze, so I would sing the words for her until she broke through her stage fright in our living room.  And then one day, I enjoyed the fruits of my labor. I was able to listen while she sang without me harmonizing as she grew her passions. I just listened and absorbed the joy. She rejuvenated me of all those years of energy I’d poured out to her by pouring them back into me.

There was just one more step I had to take as this new mom-of-an-adult. I had to take that energy she had returned to me and remember to sing for myself again.

I sang with my boy that day, and as he sped up on the back roads through the fields and peach orchards, we rolled the windows down so we had to sing louder. And louder. And soon, my son and I were belting out song after joyful song together.

The next weekend, we traveled to Los Angeles and our daughter took us to her new church. We stood together for the first song, and my first instinct was to quiet my own voice.

She sang and I listened, my voice still and my heart swelling.

And then she grabbed my hand. And I started singing with her. I could still hear her, but I could also hear myself. We harmonized and I felt whole, even with my little nest changing into a cozy little space where my husband and I snuggle into all those little feathers left behind and turn our own music back up loud. Very loud.


Previous articleCan We Please Stop Saying “Just Wait” To Struggling Moms?
Next articleHong Kong Milk Tea Recipe
Jennifer is the co-founder of Victory Garden Kids, a tutoring center and confidence building organization for students of any age. She and her husband, Jeff, opened Victory Garden Kids to help students embrace their power as learners after Jennifer watched student after student struggle with learning due to confidence issues during her 20+ years as a veteran teacher. Jennifer and Jeff have been married for 26 years and have two incredible adult children. Ben is a freshman at the University of Oregon and Hannah has graduated from UCLA and is getting married in the fall. From her own family and in the classroom, Jennifer has gathered experiences and ideas about the entire spectrum of raising and nurturing kids-no matter their age, and Jennifer loves to share her perspective. Jennifer and Jeff are currently completing their first book, Love Grows Here: A 28-Day Journey to Growing Victorious Kids!. Jennifer and her daughter are also in the process of launching their new generational perspectives podcast, GenerationSHE. Learn more at


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here