When I heard Taylor Swift’s 1989 tour was headed to the East Coast a few years ago, I quickly looked up to see how far of a drive we’d be making to see her. Charlotte, NC – only a 3-hour drive. We’re doing it. I’ll have just given birth, but we’re doing it.
As much of a TSwift fan as I am, the intent wasn’t for me, but for my boyfriend’s twin 9-year-old daughters, my “bonus kids.” Seeing her in concert has been on their goal list for a few years now, and we were just thrilled to make it happen for them.
Well, actually, Santa made it happen. He gets all the credit. But I was such a good girl this past year, I got a ticket too! And Daddy was asked to chaperone us all there and be on baby duty in the hotel. A win-win all around!
By the time concert weekend rolled around, I was feeling pretty good. My sweet little baby girl was 5.5 weeks old, my body felt 85% recovered, and I was even used to my new sleep schedule (or lack thereof). We had a few “eating mommy’s milk out of the bottle” test runs under our belts. We were ready!
After a fun weekend in uptown Charlotte, it was finally concert night. We headed out for our ten-minute walk to the arena and were joined with 15,000 of Taylor’s best friends dressed in everything from animal costumes and t-shirts, to crop tops and ball gowns. The best people watching is at concerts … and Taylor’s fans didn’t disappoint.
The crowd surrounded us as we walked into the arena. My pulse quickened. I could hear 50 different conversations around me. My vision was laser focused. I was suddenly tuned into the tweens and teens alike … Why on earth is she wearing that short of a dress? Is that a cigarette?! Where are their parents? Is that my uterus thumping to the beat?
It was as if a switch turned on inside me that was super aware of everything going on around me, specifically the herds of girls under twenty. Did I turn into catwoman or a vampire or something?
Then it hit me. No, I wasn’t the next Halle Berry, or part of the Twilight series. I was a mom. Though only in the position for 5.5 weeks, I had changed. It was biological, psychological, and irrefutable.
I’ve always felt very maternal toward my bonus kids, but this was different. It was as if my entire self transformed into a more caring, more alert, more reserved and less selfish version of me. For the first time in my life, I was seeing the world through the eyes of my daughter, and she wasn’t even there (let alone old enough to even hold her own head up).
And I loved it, even though it terrified me at the same time.
Once we were in our seats, my mom senses were in overload again. I watched a 14-year-old girl play with the filters on her phone for a good twenty minutes trying to select the best one. She never looked up to enjoy Vance Joy, the opening act, even once (and he was awesome).
I watched two 16-year-olds, fully dressed in matching Rainbow Bright outfits with armfuls of glow-in-the-dark bracelets, suck their stomachs in so hard for the photo they were posing for they nearly fell over once they let their bellies out. Did they get the “perfect” photo? I’ll never know, but I watched them stare at the photos they took, asking each other which one was better.
I watched a gaggle of 11 or 12-years-old girls call out and belittle one of their peers for her dance moves. I saw that look in that seriously off-beat little girl’s face as she tried so hard to fit in.
Heartbreaking. It’s hard to imagine anyone we love in those kinds of situations, let alone our own daughters, but it’s undoubtedly a reality for today’s girls. The pressures, struggles and worries of growing up will always be there …But is technology & social media making them worse? Many would argue that it is. So, what do we do about it?
She’s modest, she’s talented, she’s kind, she’s beautiful, she’s generous, she’s epic.
In between songs, she would talk to the audience much like I imagine she talks to herself in the mirror.
She told us: “When we go through something terrible, we turn to music. When we’re going through something confusing or complicated, sometimes we feel like the only thing that can understand us at that time is a song … So, I can only assume that if you’re here tonight and music helps you when you’re having difficult times that maybe you’ve had some difficult times in your life. Whether it was that you didn’t feel like you fit in, or you didn’t feel like you knew where you were going with your life. Or you fell in love with a habit or a person who’s bad for you, but you couldn’t put it down.”
“You are not somebody else’s opinion of you. You are not damaged goods just because you’ve made a few mistakes in your life. You are not going nowhere just because you haven’t gotten where you want to go yet. On the other hand, you are wiser from mistakes you have made, you are brave because you were bold enough to put yourself in a position to take risks and make mistakes. And you are someone who’s walked through a bunch of rainstorms and kept putting one foot in front of the other. I think I keep learning every day, but after learning for 25 years, the one thing I do know, is that pain does make you a stronger person and I do know that walking through a bunch of rainstorms and continuing to put one foot in front of the other makes you clean.”
As Taylor went into a spot-on performance of Clean, I glanced around at the groups of girls I spotted before. They looked at peace swaying to the melodies, not wrapped up in what others thought of them but focusing on the moment, on the now, away from their phones. I wished they could stay that way: unaffected from the outside world.
Taylor Swift, who can do just about anything she wants in this world, knows her power and knows her influence. And while she has a captive audience for her 1989 world tour, she’s taking the time to speak to the hearts of our young people (and the adults too) and teach us about self-acceptance, self empowerment and self-love.
As tears were rolling down my cheeks (blaming it on the postpartum hormones), I realized something: I wasn’t thinking about my own memories or my own mistakes because it wasn’t about me anymore. I was thinking about them … the three little girls, two of whom
I was arm in arm with, and their amazing experiences ahead of them in their own lives. Their first heartbreaks (and first loves), first betrayals (and best friends), first temptations (and empowerment from saying no), first rejections (and first opportunities). And it’s those parts of life that I ache for them already, knowing how hard they can be, but knowing how much stronger they’ll be by experiencing … life. Of course, I know I will want to take away their pain, but I can’t.
So, what can I do?
I can prepare and teach them how to handle themselves in a sometimes uncertain, sometimes ugly, sometimes beautiful world. I can lead by example, always, and teach them that no matter what, they CAN get through any situation. I can continue to be there for my two bonus kids, who are very much approaching those tween years. I can let them talk, promise to listen and hope they’ll continue to share their secrets and dreams with me.
And as for my sweet little 5-week-old daughter? I’m going to be her mom … and I know that will be enough. It’s the job I love the absolute most, and no doubt is the most important position I will ever hold.
I always ask the twins what their favorite part of an experience was. When asked about the Taylor Swift concert, they listed their favorite songs and went on about how “cool” Taylor was in her different outfits. I smiled knowing we helped make a memory they will never forget. What I didn’t tell them was my favorite part: watching their bright eyes taking it all in.