Counseling Today, From the President

From the President: Childhood development through a songwriter’s lens

Sue Pressman April 30, 2021

“Let Go and Have a Little Fun” Lele Rose

Sue Pressman, ACA’s 69th president

A year of shutdown finally brings May flowers. When I heard that every adult in the U.S. should be able to register to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by May, I realized the keys to life outside of our homes would soon unlock doors that have been closed for so long. It will mean that we can once again safely travel, go to restaurants, enjoy in-person concerts and spend time with family and friends. After all the grief and loss we have experienced as individuals and with our clients, we will soon be able to connect again in person. One thing I am most looking forward to is being able to spend more time with my daughter, who lives across the country from me.

I haven’t shared much in these columns about my home life, which is kind of ironic because, like many of you, I have been almost exclusively at home for the past year. This month, as Counseling Today’s cover story highlights child and adolescent counseling and as we celebrate Mother’s Day, I’d like to share some excerpts and interpretations of “Always Be Your Baby,” a song my daughter wrote for me as a gift several years ago. The ballad reflects some of her memories and ties in to her present-day life and projection of the future. Lianna (Lele Rose) is a full-time singer/songwriter and professional musician. Please take the opportunity to listen to her song and watch her lyrical video at https://youtu.be/dPqKmZ9upxo.

Let’s take a peek through the developmental lens of a songwriter as she reflects on her childhood and what it meant to her. Story writing is an effective way of helping us understand our clients and how they see the world.

The first verse of the song offers many developmental inferences. It immediately creates an image of the past, present and future and frames the song. Here are the first two lines:

When I was a little one, you kept
me from harm.

I watched you put your makeup on;
I wanted to be pretty just like you.

Children are observant and look at possibilities. Children grow up, but the child-parent identity remains throughout life. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy (safety, self-esteem) can be recognized in the next two lines:

Now I’m grown, but still your little one; you still save me and teach me right from wrong.

Oh I know, you always want the best for me.

When children grow up, leave the nest and spread their wings, it’s bittersweet in many ways. This reality is affirmed through a turning point in the song in which the young adult starts to comfort the parent in a pivotal role reversal:

Don’t you know, you’re my one
and only.

Oh we know we don’t ever have
to worry, ‘cause I got you and you
got me. 

I’ll always be your baby.

The second verse identifies parents as role models. But they are not the only role models in a person’s life. Counselors, teachers, extended family members and friends also influence our development as human beings. The following lines in the song imply work and life values:

Hey, Mama, always working hard; you never give up; you get what you want.

Cook of the house, with two cats in the yard.

Near or far, I’m always thinkin’ ‘bout you, don’t you know it.

The third verse acknowledges the importance of parenting, support, influence, respect and instilling hope for the future. When children are encouraged, they are equipped to become what Maslow calls “self-actualized.”

You and Daddy raised me to be the best I could be.

Took me dancing; always asked me to play and sing.

Because of you, I listened to the Beatles too, the Stones, the Eagles, the greats, your generation tastes.

Now it’s time for me to take your song; take it with me and run like a band on the run.

Revisiting some of the themes from my daughter’s song — through the eyes of both a mother and a counselor — brings new light to its meaning and the developmental processes of young people.

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