When my kids were growing up I had a tan minivan. It was awesome. We bought it from my in-laws and filled it with memories and Capri Sun empties. This beige chariot carried my children to school every day, back and forth from practice fields, rehearsals, church activities, and on one grand glorious road trip to Oregon.
We listened to country radio, mostly because it was the only radio station playing songs I did not have to explain to little ears. We rocked out to Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, Shania Twain (insert Brian’s cover of “man, I feel like a woman”) and lots of late 90s and early 2000’s country singers. One of our favorite bands was the Dixie Chicks. This was an era of strong female voices. Women sang of adventure, of independence, and of women taking responsibility for their own lives. These songs formed the soundtrack of a decade of change in our family.
When 1999 turned to 2000, our children were in elementary school and my days were consumed by the dailiness of raising three children, participation in our community, and lots of volunteer work. I served in my church, lead the PTO at our school, and spent a few seasons as a coach in various youth teams. It was a good time! By 2010, all but one had graduated from high school, I had earned an associates degree from my local community college, graduated with high honors from a prestigious women’s college, and begun a masters program. I had also shifted to full-time work outside my home. This had always been the plan to shift my focus as my children moved toward independence. Things were going according to plan.
As time went on, though, I struggled with how far my vision for them departed from the reality of their choices. I wanted to make it “easy” for them, but they chose their own path. They chose roads I cautioned against, headed out into areas I couldn’t help them with, and navigated complexities I would never have taken on. They forged their own paths. They struggled. They took risks. They turned down opportunities I would have accepted. They grew up. They have each shaped their lives differently that I would have, had I been in charge. But, I guess that’s the thing. They have made their lives their own.
The other night I joined my girls at a Dixie Chicks concert. I stood and sang every word to every song the band played. I was floored by how much those words still mean, maybe now more than ever. These voices of independence and strength have shaped us all. We danced and laughed, we hugged each other in recognition as the songs touched our stories again, and for the first time. Each of us found ourselves in their songs and in their story.
If you know anything about the Dixie Chicks, you might know that their anti-war comments in the heat of Post 9/11 America effectively ended their careers. Country radio banned them and many fans turned against them. When their final album was released, it was not an apology but an act of defiance. They risked everything to tell their own truth when it was completely unpopular. While I didn’t agree with their words at the time, I also didn’t agree with the backlash they received. They made their choices and they paid a steep price. This moment in their history aligned with a particular moment in my own life that made them even more precious to me.
The other night, I watched my girls sing songs that celebrated coming of age, the freedom to make mistakes, and the yearning to chart a new course. I realized that these voices (and others) had given them a vision of independence and autonomy that they are now living out. I had taken the long road to find my way as a woman, and now they were too. My heart overflowed with gratitude that these voices were part of the backdrop of their lives. When I turned on country radio a couple decades ago, I wasn’t thinking about more than keeping the noise to a dull roar in the back of my van. Now I realize those strong voices that filled our van also help shape our lives.