Letting your kids choose their own path: Thank you Jimmy Barnes & Ed Sheeran

What do Jimmy Barnes and Ed Sheeran have in common? Apart from phenomenal musicality and bigger bank accounts than me – they both allowed my son to be the best possible version of himself.

But let’s backtrack a little.

We are a blended family living in a small country town. Before my son (Bodhi) was eight years old he had experienced family breakdown, divorce, drought and severe flooding, that ultimately saw the demise of the family farm.

Throughout all these obstacles, Bodhi had a constant source of peace – his guitar.


Bodhi has been playing the guitar since he was big enough to hold it up. I have photos of him strumming away on my dad’s – he was so little he could barely see over the top.

In the years since, his commitment to music has not waivered. We bought him his first nylon string when he was about five. By the time he was nine he was well past needing a better guitar, so we offered him a deal. We would match him dollar for dollar to purchase a new one. Bodhi got up at 4am to milk the cows, he saved his birthday money, he did odd jobs…and we ended up forking out way more than we planned!

When he was about ten a school teacher asked his class to write an English piece about their Hero. Many of the boys in the class wrote about their favorite football player – Bodhi wrote about his life-long idol, Ed Sheeran.

Our small rural community thrives on sport. This is common, sport plays an fundamental role in maintaining healthy, vibrant communities. It brings people together and provides a common interest…a bond if you like. I grew up playing netball in the winter and tennis in the summer. My brothers played footy and cricket. It was what you did.

If I am honest, I suppose there is also an understanding that sport is the easiest way to fit in. I was never one to rock the social boat. If it was trendy to wear a fluro yellow ra-ra skirt, I’d get me a flouro yellow ra-ra skirt – even if it looked ridiculous.

So I played sport. I genuinely enjoyed sport and the perks that came with it. The mate-ship. The celebrations. It was a no-brainer.

As a parent I think we can be guilty of expecting our kids to be just like us. It is probably not a conscious thought. It was only natural to assume my kids would tread the same sport oriented path as I. I assumed – like many of my fellow country mums – my sons would pull on their boots for the local footy team.

Bodhi did (pull on the boots that is) for a few years in the junior ranks. He did, because his mates did. He did, because he really wanted to take the path of least resistance. He did – but he was never entirely comfortable with it.

We have a rule in our house – if you start something, you finish it. For example, if you start ballet or martial arts or swimming lessons, you stick at it for a full year. Last year Bodhi came to us midway through the footy season and asked if he could stop so he could spend more time on his music commitments. My knee jerk reaction was – no.

Over the ensuing days however,  I started to question my reasoning.

Was I saying no because it was the best thing for Bodhi or was I saying no because I believed his life would be easier if he did the same thing as other kids? It was obvious to us Bodhi was also having his own internal struggle. He was trying to make the decision to be like everyone else or to follow his own path.

In the end, we let Bodhi decide.

 He decided to follow his own path.

In the last six months it has been Bodhi teaching me about being true to yourself.

Late last year I was planning Steve’s 40th birthday party. We decided on a bus trip with our friends and family to see Australian music legend, Jimmy Barnes, perform. Bodhi was checking out the details online and noticed Jimmy was running a singing competition. The winner would perform with him at the concert.

Bodhi looked at me and said, “I’m going to enter that.”

“Great,” I said…followed with lots of “You’re only young, there will be lots of great performers applying, blah, blah, blah.” General negative stuff.

Bodhi asked to use my phone to film him singing an acoustic version of Jimmy’s “Still on your side”. I then promptly forgot about the whole thing.

In early December I opened an email that read something like this…

 Hi Bodhi, Congratulations! You have been chosen to sing with Jimmy Barnes.

Thank you, Team JB

Lucky I was sitting down when I opened the email.

They chose Bodhi. To sing with Jimmy Barnes. In front of 5000 people.


I think now is an appropriate moment to talk about mother pride. I experience it often. Most of us do, because our kids are a constant source of wonder and loveliness. But throughout this experience – my mother pride was off the richter scale. Not because Bodhi was getting his five minutes of fame, but because of the way he handled himself throughout the whole saga.

I remember on the big day standing to the right of the stage waiting for Jimmy to announce Bodhi. My eyes kept darting to the exits to make sure they were clear – I had a strong and urgent desire to puke. My nerves were zinging around my body like electric shocks. Steve took a sneaky photo of me that looks like I am standing in prayer. I probably was.

Bodhi, on the hand, was cool as a cucumber. The sound guy mic’d him up, gave him some instructions and the next thing I know Jimmy Barnes announces;

 …up next, we have our youngest – and possibly our best – guest performer…BODHI!

Bodhi jogged on stage.

The crowd went wild.

I started bawling – like a baby.


Bodhi did his thing. He sung that song like a boss. After his performance Jimmy’s management walked him up the race through the crowd to the sound desk. People were stopping him and asking to have selfies with him. It was all so absurd I got the giggles.

Throughout the whole thing Bodhi never lost his head. He was proud, but he was humble. In the weeks leading up to the performance he performed live on local radio and was interviewed multiple times. He took it all in stride.

Prior to the performance, Bodhi met Jimmy and they had a spontaneous jam session. Jimmy was tapping out a rhythm on the table and his guitarist was working his magic. And there was my big boy – belting it out with an Australian music legend.


Bodhi turned 12 around the same time he performed with Jimmy Barnes. His birthday gifts included the Ed Sheeran Autobiography “Ed Sheeran – A Visual Journey” and a ticket to his upcoming concert in Melbourne. Bodhi devoured the book in one afternoon.

He then proceeded to follow me around for days quoting Ed. It got the better of me so I read the book (by the way – it was fantastic). Ed’s messages were very clear – be yourself, never give up, keep learning.

Ed’s book opens with;

 “I am proof that people aren’t born with talent. It’s all come through practice, everything comes through practice. You start off with a little spark, and it’s whether or not you nurture that spark. You have to expand it and work on it.”

This is my Bodhi. He just keeps working at it.

Since performing with Jimmy and reading Ed’s book something remarkable has shifted in Bodhi. I feel like these experiences have given him validation – or permission if you like – to be the person he wants to be.

Yes, these experiences have seen a marked improvement in his performance confidence and vocal ability – but it is more than that.

Bodhi recently went on his first high school camp. He turned up with his back-pack, sleeping bag and…guitar. As usual, some of the kids gave him stick about it, “Do you take that thing everywhere, do you sleep with your guitar?”

Six months ago this would have rattled him.


He replied, “Yep – so what?”

Oh high five to you Jimmy Barnes and Ed Sheeran.

It doesn’t matter any more if Bodhi is good at music or not. Music makes Bodhi happy. I will never understand his absolute commitment and devotion, but that’s ok. I am happy to support him and his siblings in whatever path they choose. He may even decide music is not for him in the future – and that’s ok too, because I know he is capable of anything he puts his mind to.

The Ed Sheeran concert is in Melbourne in three weeks – I have planned a whole “city” experience. We are going to see the concert, stay overnight, eat at funky cafes and pretend like we are not fish out of water.

Given Bodhi needs a new, larger guitar we may even do a spot of guitar shopping. He has been hinting about us matching him dollar for dollar again…but I know how much money he has saved up and I am not that stupid!

Blend it your way,

Leese x

You can see more of Bodhi at his Bodhi Hawken Music Facebook and Instagram pages Below he performs an original song ‘Making of this’.

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