Healing, Parenting -- Piece by Piece

(this article also appears on Huffington Post so you can click here if you want to read it there)

"And all I remember is your back."

I just watched one of the most important live performances i have ever seen, of one of the most important songs I have ever heard, with the most rawest of emotions I have ever shared.

Piece by Piece, by Kelly Clarkson on American Idol.

Kelly wrote the song when she was pregnant with her daughter, and now she's singing it when she's again pregnant with her son. It's about her childhood; it's about their childhood.

Piece by piece.

The lyrics describe abandonment by her father, restoration from her husband, and the care for her daughter. While the hurt pains, the love flows. I can literally feel my heart get heavy as she compares and contrasts her father with the man who is now in her life, her husband and her daughter's father. It's also a not so subtle message that she was able to stop the cycle of abandonment in her family.

"But piece by piece he collected me up off the ground where you abandoned things. And piece by piece he filled the holes that you burned in me at six years old." Whoa.

"He restored my faith that a man can be kind and a father could stay." Wow.

Piece by piece.

I could barely get through the song, so it's no wonder she struggles. I have a feeling she'll be struggling every time she sings it; it won't get any easier. But maybe the pain will, for her and for others also suffering.

Piece by piece.

While I didn't experience her journey, I can relate as a father. I've always been responsible for the physical and emotional well-being of my two children (a daughter and a son too, in that order) ... honestly I think more now than ever as they become adults.

The responsibility never subsides. Nor the worry. Nor the love.

Piece by piece.

I was raising my children when fathers weren't as visibly active as they are today. As an always present, single caregiver, I was an rarity. Not so much anymore. I see fathers of all flavors embedded in their children's lives, shaping and raising them to be healthy, confident adults just like my children. Some on their own, some with co-parents, some with spouses.

Piece by piece.

I wouldn't know how to care for my children any other way, yet I've known many who have had different experiences. Like Kelly.

And while we have collectively come a long way, I know we still have a long way to go. So many children face the uncertainty, abandonment, and feelings of worthlessness as a result of parents who leave them.

Which is why songs like Piece by Piece are so important. They raise our awareness and help people cope in similar situations. Which is why sharing our own story is so important as well...so that others can see themselves and realize that they too can make it through.

Just like I did on my own journey, with my own struggles.

Piece by Piece.

I have such tremendous respect (and pride) that Kelly could turn her pain into a moving lyrical story that I know will bring healing. There's nothing more important than that, for children and for adults.

I hope it all brings some peace, piece by piece.

What's your experience? JIM.

P.S. And then there's Gaga at the Oscars...