My Daughter, the Musician

My Daughter, the Musician

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

My Daughter, the Musician

Furnish an example, stop preaching, stop shielding, don’t prevent self-reliance and initiative, allow your children to develop along their own lines.

Eleanor Roosevelt

When people I don’t know ask me if I have children I say, “Yes, a daughter and a son, both in their twenties.”

“Oh, really? What do they do?”

“One works in television production and the other in a rock band,” I say.

Invariably, the next question is: “What instrument does your son play?”

I smile. “My son is a television producer and a photographer. My daughter plays lead guitar. She’s also the vocalist and writes all the songs for the band,” I add.

Almost as invariably, the next question is: “Ah—an all-girl band?”

“No, she’s the only woman in Bell (the name of the band).”

“Oh.”

I wish all those people were with me right now, sitting in this audience, in this theater in Seattle, watching my daughter on stage; playing, singing, strutting and, in general, doing, as it were, her thing.

“Is she good?”

“She’s great! But it is possible I am the wrong person to ask.”

You see, Vanessa was not born with what you might call a God-given singing voice. I was not surprised. She came by it naturally. All my life I have been musically challenged. When I was in elementary school, we were made to try out for the school chorus. The song each of us had to sing was “Bicycle Built for Two.”

I can still remember the humiliation of having to get up in front of my class and warble, wobbily, “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do!” At the second extremely flat “Daisy,” there were audible snickers. However, the school rule was that if you wanted to be in the chorus, you got to be in the chorus, so I was asked, somewhat diplomatically, if I would mind just moving my lips instead of actually, well, singing.

Of course, I was hurt, but I let it go. After all, I could draw pictures and write stories better than the other kids. And later, so could my daughter, which may help to explain why I pushed her in those areas and gently (I thought) steered her away from music.

Didn’t work. The more I pushed in one direction, the more determined Vanessa became. Stubborn as a mule (I don’t know where she gets it), Vanessa devoted hours to her guitar. She listened, watched, studied, practiced, learned. Same with the singing. She would not give up. We fought. I tried to discourage her. I lost.

Now, with the release of her first album, reviewers are calling her voice “strong,” “gutsy,” “true” and “soulful.” They say the same thing about her songs. And so I sit in a theater next to all these strangers, bursting with pride. Do I say, “Wow! That’s my daughter up there”? Yes, but only to myself because I have been forbidden to say it to everybody else.

Heading backstage, I am ashamed of myself. I had actively tried to keep my daughter from pursuing her love, her music. I thought I knew best. I didn’t want to see her hurt. “Follow your dreams,” I would say, when what I really meant was, “Follow my dreams for you.”

In one of her songs, Vanessa writes, “Give me something to hold to/ give me something to reach/ and I can take on anything and shine like the sea/ But ask me to live without that/ I can’t make it work—can you?” No, I guess not.

And it doesn’t really matter whether Vanessa becomes tomorrow’s singing sensation or fades quietly away into obscurity. What does matter is that my daughter stood up to her mother and followed her dream—and her mother, old dog that she is, learned a new trick. It’s called humility.

Linda Ellerbee

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