My friend Mary Goldring didn’t help raise me, and I’ve only known her for a few years, but she taught me a valuable lesson about supporting our children’s God-given talents and interests.
My first knowledge of Mary was as a singer and guitar player at our church. Listening to her was like worshipping with a bluesy, raw Joan Baez. Later we met on a more personal level--we were in a group of eight traveling to Honduras in February, 2008. Before the trip we met weekly with our group to gain a sense of cohesion before embarking abroad. I felt like Mary was a friend I’d known forever, or maybe she’s what I hope to be when I’m fifty.
In any case, she has maybe the deepest and truest love for God I’ve ever witnessed. One of my favorite books on faith is Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott. I think Mary and Anne are long-lost sisters.
Before I get to the crux of my appreciation for Mary, it’s important to note that her teenaged son, Andrew, is a phenomenal musician-songwriter. His talent emerged early and by the age of twelve, professional blues musicians were comparing Andrew to a young Eric Clapton. Seriously, this kid is incredible. But I met him when he was fifteen. As his mom, Mary watched Andrew’s interest and talent emerge from a tender age.
It helped that Mary and her husband Steve were, themselves, music appreciators. Many parents can say, “Yes, I want to expose my child to music.” It’s another thing to do what Mary did.
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When Andrew was in fifth grade and struggling with school, Mary was driving her car and thinking about her son. She heard a very clear voice say, “Mary, I made Andrew for music. Not for school.” And with that, Mary and Steve pulled Andrew out of public school. They home-schooled him for three years and were able to work in a great amount of music education for him. And he thrived.
At his current age of seventeen, Andrew is enrolled in an arts high school and has several albums to his name. He’s toured states-wide playing his music, opened for Johnny Winter and performed for a crowd of 10,000.
Maybe it was easy for musician-Mary, who attended Woodstock and still has some hippy in her blood, to nurture her son. But she could easily have done what many parents do: Tell their kid to study; to sit still; to put the guitar away and learn the Gettysburg Address; to give it a few years and then choose a college major.
I’ve already had moments of weakness when all the moms are kvetching about what high school their three-year-old will one day attend. But in the end I look at my sons and remember that these little boys are not mine. They are gifts, and it is my job to raise them up and send them out into the world.
So occasionally I try to slow down. I think of Mary and decide to let my kid roll in sawdust or race down the driveway while standing on his Hot Wheel. These are little things because I have little kids, but someday maybe it’ll be painting the periodic table on the bathroom wall, dismantling the carburetor or moving to a surf town. But I’ll be ready.
In the words of Andrew’s song Weight, “Don’t you know/ just why you’re here/ to show me what/ I’m good for...”