The other week Jordan didn't want to practice his trombone. Because I am a mean mother taking a long range view of things I told him to practice anyway. There was angst and there was drama, but eventually he did practice.

He wasn't happy though, and as his practice time progressed he shared that he was bored with the music, tired of playing the parts that support the rest of the band, tired of the trombone section always being overshadowed by the trumpets and the woodwinds. He was, to put it in his own words, tired of being the backbone of the band. Couldn't the trombones shine, just once?

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I remember the day he decided he wanted to play the trombone. Up until that day he'd been adamant that he would play the trumpet. (In the read-through of this for his approval he first asked me what adamant meant, and then told me he was also thinking about percussion. This I don't remember, and I'm pretty certain I would remember a child telling me he wanted to play the drums. Some things stick with a parent.) Then the middle school jazz band came to play at his school and from that day on his heart was sold out to the trombone. I think sometimes he forgets the wonder of that moment as he plugs away at being the backbone. He forgets that there was something there, something not carried in the melody, something that stirred his heart and shaped a passion.

Do you ever feel that way? That thing that you were so excited about turned out to be a lot of plugging away in the background, supporting someone else's melody. You feel bored. You feel like what you are doing doesn't really matter. If you just dropped out it wouldn't make a difference.

Parenting can feel like that sometimes. We pack the lunches and check the folders, sign the permission slips and ferry them to practices and field trips at 6:30 in the morning. We are the backbone of our family and yet it seems as if no one notices. We hope that our children will grow up to shine, adding their own unique melody to the world, but will they remember the backbone that we provided so they could grow straight and tall? Will they notice all the ways in which we support their song?

Work can feel like that too. You get the words like 'reliable, dependable, self-starter.' And then you get passed over for the promotion, passed over for a newer employee, maybe even passed over for someone you trained. And you hear words like 'not leadership material.' It can feel like a slap.

And yes even relationships can be like that, sometimes. Some people just sparkle with life, drawing people into their orbit. Meanwhile you're the introvert on the sideline, watching them sing 'Wind Beneath My Wings' but wishing that you could fly too. (90's reference! Go watch 'Beaches'.) It's not that you aren't content with where you are, it's just that sometimes you wonder what it would be like to be the spark that brings a party to life.

Dear ones, can I tell you a secret? Sometimes we are ALL the trombone, playing our one note in the song while strings and trumpets soar. And sometimes we just need to go back, need to remember what it felt like at the beginning.

What it felt like when we first anticipated that child, the first moments of wonder, of wanting to know who they would become.

What it felt like when you got the job, the joy that you felt in accomplishing something by the end of the day.

Remember the thing that stirred in your soul and brought you to this place. You had a dream, and while that dream may not have looked like being the backbone, this thing that you are right now is a part of that dream. It may not be glamorous. It may be messy and a little bit boring and like a lot of sitting around and waiting.

But just you wait, because somewhere out there is a wide-eyed player of songs just starting their journey and they will look at you, at the notes you play and the ease with which you play them and something will stir in their soul. You, in all your backbone glory, are the inspiration for someone else.

Even if you never know it.


  1. Interesting that at band collaboration tonight - both band leaders were originally trombone players and the trombones had the "spotlight" in one of the songs...high low I believe. Interesting that those are his band teachers as well! (remind him!)

  2. I love this, because it absolutely feels like plodding so much of the time, like wondering if anyone sees the heart you put in and put out there. Thank you for writing this so eloquently.


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