Let’s get this out of the way up front: I’m an unabashed fan of Justin Bieber. From his “One Time” days to “Yummy” — it’s a love song to his wife, you guys — I’ve casually followed his career and the steady rise/fall/rise that happens with lots of young pop stars. And I’ve rooted for him, like a big sister might root for her ne’er-do-well baby brother.
In fact, Justin Bieber is almost young enough to be my son, biologically speaking.
But he’s not my son, of course. He’s a 25-year-old with lots of fame, lots of tattoos, and no idea what he wants to be when he grows up. Like all people in their mid-twenties, Mr. Bieber is still finding himself. The problem is that he’s trying to do that while being adored and hated in equal measure.
I’m not here to discuss all the ways Justin has wooed and dismayed his fans over the years. But I am here to wonder about the woman who gave birth to the Biebs all those years ago. What were her dreams for him? Did she lay awake at night and worry about his future? Is she proud of him now?
I imagine that Justin’s mom, celebrity notwithstanding, is like every other mom.
And as a mom myself, I can’t help but wonder what it’s like to have your baby boy on such a high and bright pedestal as the one he’s on. You don’t have to be a Belieber to recognize the tenuous position his celebrity encourages and demands.
When I think about the kind of future I want for my son, I see a life filled with purpose. I want him to have friends, to be liked, to enjoy what he does for a living. I want him to care about other people and things, to have hobbies that fill his free time with meaning and enjoyment, to be kind and brave and assertive in the right way. I want him to find a wife and settle down, come home for holidays, and still call me “Mama” even when his voice is deep and he has kids of his own. I want him to be happy, truly happy, and to find his own faith in the God I know is real.
It’s a tall order, I know. But isn’t it the same order every mother wishes for her children? That our kids are happy and safe and grounded? When Justin Bieber’s mother rocked him in his nursery 25 years ago, did she wish and pray for the same things?
It’s easy to dismiss celebrities as shiny entities, to discount them as actual people. The life they’ve chosen or been born into opens them up for a strange paradox: intense scrutiny with an inability to see past the headlines.
But Justin Bieber isn’t just a branded name and a pretty voice. He’s a real person, with a real mother.
Justin Bieber is somebody’s son. And that somebody once imagined a life for her baby boy. Maybe she dreamed of stardom right from the start, or maybe she had other ideas about his life. And when she sees him now, married at 25 with a decade-long career under his designer belt already, she’s both deliriously proud and secretly fearful about all the pitfalls that come with his high-profile life.
As parents, our goal is to raise the next generation to tackle whatever obstacle comes their way. We deliberate over preschools, agonize over how much screen time is too much, fill our kids’ plates with nutritious foods (that they won’t touch), and send them out into the world hoping that they change it for the better. Some of our kids might just do it, too. And some of our kids might become famous. They might sing or become president or invent some mind-boggling piece of technology or colonize Mars.
And if they become famous, what becomes of us, their mothers?
We don’t change. Mothers never change when it comes to the hope for our kids. We never stop hoping for the best, praying over them, or wishing and believing that their lives will be beautiful and meaningful and important. Even when they mess up, big mistakes and small, we’ll be there, not to condone or excuse bad behavior, but to support them for who they are underneath the mishaps and poor decisions. Because we know them now and we’ll know them then.
I don’t know anything about Justin Bieber’s mom as a person other than her name, which I learned while writing this post. But I know that she’s a mother. And even though her son is Justin Bieber — a heartthrob, a punchline, a real human being — she still has all the hopes and dreams and fears she’s always had for him, and she’ll carry them with her as long as she lives.