What “Piece by Piece” Means to Me


I first heard Kelly Clarkson’s Idol performance of “Piece by Piece” on the way to drop my son off at daycare a few weeks ago.

The radio host was describing how it had brought both Kelly, and the Idol judges to tears the night before, and stoic me thought, “yea right, this is Idol trying to be sappy and boost ratings. I bet it’s not that powerful of a song.” Boy, was I wrong. The words that poured through the radio hit my heart like a ton of bricks. It had me wiping away big, fat tears then, and I’m still doing it now as I reread the lyrics and write this post.

Right away it is clear that Kelly is singing about a father that abandoned her when she was 6 years old.

A father that made her feel like, as a person, she wasn’t valuable enough for him to want to stick around. She was a young child, without fame or money, just a yearning to love and be loved, but that wasn’t enough for him. And that broke her to pieces. Cue tears.

piece by piece Kelly Clarkson Keith Urban
Even Keith Urban was moved to tears

Growing up, I don’t remember missing my father.

I also can’t recall being angry at him for not being present.  Having a two-parent family wasn’t something I had ever had, so I didn’t mourn the loss. It wasn’t until after I had my first son that I started feeling angry towards my father. As a new parent I would look at my perfect little baby and think, how could someone just walk away from their child? From their responsibilities as a parent? As I thought about my own father leaving my sisters and I; three young, innocent, loving children, I felt a kind of pain I didn’t even realize existed inside of me; or at least I had done a good job of keeping it buried away all these years.

The other side to this song; the part that was more meaningful to me than the initial message, is when Kelly sings about her husband. She describes a man that has shown her how truly amazing a DAD can be; a man that has stepped up to the plate as a parent to their daughter and as a partner to her. Kelly sings about how her husband restored her faith by just loving both her and their daughter.  Her daughter never has to wonder what she’s worth, or have her heart broken by the most important man in her young life.

piece by piece father son collage
Best Friends

Again, I think of my own young children.  My son, E is about the age that Kelly says she was when her father first left. For a moment I think of what it’d be like if my son’s dad left. The word “devastated” comes to mind, yet I know it wouldn’t even come close to the pain that he’d feel. I know he wouldn’t understand, and honestly, how does any child understand being abandoned? The thought alone has my eyes melting into my hands. It scares me and it makes me angry for any mother and child that has had to endure moments of grief fueled by abandonment.

Once I can push those dark thoughts to the side, I focus on how truly fortunate I am. How, similar to Kelly, I have a partner that is not only a loving and caring husband, but a tremendous dad. I feel so thankful everyday that our children have a dad that loves them unconditionally. I really relate to her feelings of being put back together, piece by piece, through the love shown by her spouse, especially when the love is directed towards their child.

piece by piece_couple dressed up
The most dependable man in my life

Kelly also sings about how she will always be there for her daughter, putting her first, unlike her own father, and that touched me as well.  I know deep in my heart that nothing can ever be as important to me as my kids. I hope to show them everyday how much they mean to me.

I was completely caught off guard by the onslaught of feelings that rushed in when I heard Kelly perform. So, thank you, Kelly. I guess I’m a bigger crybaby than I thought.

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I am a native Vermonter, and even though the winters nearly drive me away each year, the beautiful landscape, supportive family, and wonderful communities keep us here! I’m also very fortunate to have a job in Clinical Research that married my love of organization with my fascination for science. As much as I love my job, our family is by far the greatest joy in my life. My husband and I have three boys and we have lived in Milton for five years. I also love running, cooking, and being outside with the boys hiking or hitting the beach!


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