On being (a) Yo Yo Ma

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‘The Empty Nest has its Ups and Downs’

By now you probably know more facts about The Child than The Child feels comfortable about you knowing. But she’s off in Boston making a name for herself as a software engineer and therefore can’t roll her eyes heavenward in ‘My Mom is Oversharing Again’ dismay. At least not where I can see her.

So I’m going to riff a little about ‘parenting’. First, let me make my distaste for terms like ‘parenting’ clear. The use of nouns as verbs (‘crafting’, ‘birding’, even ‘blogging’) tends to make my own eyes roll heavenward. I mean, if I’m ‘parenting’, is The Child ‘kidding’?

But I must admit that I rather like my new not-yet-trendy term ‘Yo Yo Ma’, which I will explain shortly. But first, have you heard of Snowplow ParentsThe Gypsynesters, who write a blog nearly as hilarious as mine, describe them as parents who clear the way for their children, removing any obstacles that might actually challenge them. These Moms and Dads take care of any pesky stuff that might interfere with their kids’ happiness, like homework and term papers and college application essays.

According to Wikipedia, the term ‘Helicopter Parent’ has been around since 1969. I’m sure you know parents who hover, or maybe even done your share of same. Speaking of which, I read about a college that had to make a rule to ensure that parents actually left campus after dropping off their freshmen because they found this one Mom who not only slept in her son’s room for a week, but went to all his classes with him (!)

Well, I admit that The Dude and I did actually get in a car and deliver The Child and her belongings to college. But we didn’t hang around, not even to attend the ‘Welcome Parents’ festivities. Instead we did the sensible thing and headed to the nearest bar.

I guess non-hovering must run in my family. I remember that my mom drove me to college in the fall of my freshman year. But I was the oldest of five. By the time they got to Kid Number Four (my Beloved Sister Laura), my parents said ‘We’re too busy to take you to college; you’ll have to get a ride.’

So she did. And ended up marrying the boy who was nice enough to drive her. (Big shout-out, Beloved Bro-in-Law Dave!)

But the Mothers of all Hoverers must be these parents who go to the trouble (not to mention the expense) of sending their kids to boarding schools — and then rent or buy houses near said schools and move there. I mean, honestly. What’s the point?

Anyway. In spite of our relative lack of hovering (or snowplowing, for that matter), The Child has turned out pretty well. She’s even recently become a Contributing Member of Society with an Actual Paying Job (praise the lord).

But is she ‘gone’ from The Nest? Well. Not entirely. She has friends in New York, and parents who insist on seeing her at Major Holidays. Which means that just when I’ve become accustomed to the Nest being Empty, she comes back. Then, when I’ve recovered from the shock of a 23-year-old woman inhabiting My Child’s body and we’ve ‘grabbed some sushi’ and ‘caught a movie’ together — she’s gone again.

I’m up, then I’m down. I get back up…then down I go. I am Yo Yo Ma.

As my own ‘Ma’ would say right about now, ‘Sigh’.

Any of you Moms share this feeling? Did I get it right? Oh, for more Mom Musings, check the menu at the left. Or, for more about The Child — there’s even a little film starring Guess Who — skip right ahead to ‘Gone Baby Gone’.

I’ll leave you with this photo of the two of us on another holiday (the one at the top of this post was taken at a recent Christmas). This one shows us in our Mom-and-Child Easter finery:

Easter. Twenty years ago (that's ten minutes in Mom Years)

Easter. Twenty years ago (that’s ten minutes in Mom Time)

New York City. January 2015

46 thoughts on “On being (a) Yo Yo Ma

  1. I am not yet a Yo-Yo Ma, but looking forward to it these days. Offspring will be heading off into the wider world soon and I’m… not as heartbroken about it as I thought I’d be. I mean, I’ll miss him, but I’m rather looking forward to missing him if that makes any sense. Mostly I’m excited to see what sort of adult he turns into, and that really only happens outside of my home and influence, so… off he must go!

    • You sound just like me — only a few years ago! The Child is now (gasp) 26, so it feels like ages since she was in the Nest. (oops; that was a total lie; it actually feels like seconds ago) I too was eager to see her make her way into the Big Wide World. And it has been fun for both of us. But I still get the ‘ups’ and ‘downs’ when she comes home — and then leaves. Such a YoYo!

  2. josypheen

    You are so good to be a yo yo ma!

    A while ago I heard that my generation is known as the boomerang generation. Our parents throw us out to go to college, then we come back, then they kick us out for our first job, but when something goes wrong we end up back at home.

    I didn’t move home since i moved out, but all my brothers and sisters did at some point. One sister even moved home with her two kids while they were saving to build a house.

    So hopefully you being a yo yo ma will prevent the boomerang, so you can relax in your quiet nest.

    • Thanks Josypheen! Trust me, I have no problem with kids living with their parents. Many of my family and friends are dealing with this situation. I guess I just can’t understand those parents who COULD let their kids be on their own, but don’t. And yes, I am experiencing a few YoYo pangs! The Child was just home for T’giving, triggering one, big time xoxo

      • josypheen

        You’re right. Although it must be hard for lots of people to let go!

        It can be hard for both sides if they do actually move home though.

  3. Snowplow parents? What is this new hell? I lived in two towns that had those fancy boarding schools. There were plenty of helicopter parents who moved to be close. Instead of allowing them to actually “board” at the school, they would rent a condo in town and have their child live with them. Absolutely ridiculous.

  4. It doesn’t ever end. Just warning you. I’m 39 and my mom still probably feels this way. Although, to be fair, at times I’m starting to feel like I’m a Yo Yo Ma making sure she’s okay every time I visit. So, I guess, at some point, you and The Child will swap, and she’ll be watching over you periodically. Until then, hang out at the bar some more.

    • Hahahahaha! Love your advice. Heading for the bar now. But seriously, you are so right; I’ve already started checking in on my mom. And The Child? She’s started checking in on me. Sometimes we even head to the bar together (!)

  5. I was quite shielding of my son when he was young and I regret it a bit. Also that we lived in a tiny town in mid Massachusetts with a not great school. I think the defining moment of my son’s life and ours was when he packed up a car at 21 and drove cross country to start a new life in Phoenix – no friends, no job, no family, nowhere to live. Thank God, the internet had arrived. So now we live less than two hours apart and rarely see him. Not for lack of wanting but he is working full-time and going to school as well. I know I did some things wrong, Alice, but your daughter is beautiful and accomplished so you did a whole lot right.

    • Oh, Judy! Thanks for your comment (and for your continued readership; it means a lot to me). But I think you are being way too hard on yourself. I have often said that by the time we learn how to be mothers our kids are grown and we have no one to practice our now-honed parenting skills on (!) xoxoxoxoxo

  6. “Twenty years ago (that’s ten minutes in Mom Time)”
    Ha-ahahaha…sounds like you’ve enjoyed your time well. And software engineering is what I do…uncertified, unpaid.

  7. Sharon McGavin

    Dear, dear Alice,
    You really got it with this one! “I’m up then I’m down…” Perfect.
    Remember, my baby is 32 and I still feel this way. And now, with tiny grand ones on the left coast, I feel the same way after my visits with them.

    • Gosh, Sharon. Thanks! So glad I could strike a chord, even though it’s a wistful one. I know my Mom still feels this way, too. On our trip West to see her last weekend, we visited an Astoria landmark called The Column. I heard her telling another woman that she ‘wanted to buy a little glider for her granddaughter to launch off the top’. The granddaughter in question is The Child, who is 24.

  8. Im just beginning the road to empty nester. This will be our first year without the oldest boy home for a holiday. But exams and study trump being home. Boy two heads off to University in September. Boy three will have to do for entertainment for a few more years. After that, I’ll be sad for awhile but adjustment will come.

    I had heard the term helicopter parent. I do like the term snowplow parent. Oddly enough, I see many of my teacher acquaintances being snowplows.

    Great post. Humorous but nostalgic at the same time!

    • Wow. Thank you, Teresa. For reading, and for taking the time to comment. Your insights and instincts are right on the money. Hope you keep on reading, and volunteering your thoughts!

  9. HA! I’ve never heard the term snowplow parent, but I know the kind exactly (I’m a parent and a teacher, after all). I always just lumped them all as helicopters. However, Snowplow makes much more sense. I love the humor in your blog (or at least this piece, so far). I’ll definitely be back to read more!

    • Thank you, Stomperdad! I am so glad you enjoy my humor. And so glad you take time from teaching and beng a parent to read and comment. Yes please, do come back for more!

    • Gosh. I’m so pleased that you liked this. After reading your blog, I had a feeling that this post would be the right one for you to sample (!) I look forward to our continued ‘blog sharing’. And I hope you enjoy your children as much as I enjoy The Child!

  10. Nailed it.

    Alice, not only are our daughters the same age, we both have just the one. Because God gives you what you can handle.

    Change I-90 to the Atlantic Ocean, the name Eve instead of Sam, and musician instead of engineer, and I could’ve written this post myself.

    This past holiday was so short and sweet, just eight days on the continent and she’s back on a plane — we didn’t even have time to get into an argument.

    The thing that I am still adjusting to is losing the structure and parameters of School — school with a capital S, the time between age 5 and age 22.

    “School” gave so much structure to the relationship: How was school today, do you have a spelling test on Friday, who are you going to the dance with, tell me about which electives interest you, where should we go on vacation.

    With school uniting us, there seemed to always be a built in lubricant for big discussions about current events and politics, boys and girl friends, making out and make-up, mean teachers and push-overs, working hard without stressing out, down-time and getting down. (insert another cringe-worthy expression: teaching moments. UGH.)

    Without school, it’s a whole new set of discussions without deadlines or timeframes of Friday night’s dance or this semesters classes — and I am still navigating it. And trying desperately not to set up those scheduled awkward phone calls on Sunday evening — for scheduled interaction — that remind both my husband and me of our own parents.

    Anyway, thanks for this post and a pause for reflection. We should Skype some time, Alice. It’s always so great to connect with you. Even if I get a little weepy, it’s in a good way!

    • Wow. Thanks, Teresa. For your kind words, and for adding the School Dimension to the discussion. I honestly had not thought of how much help it was to have ‘School’ to talk about — and to give structure to the days, the weeks, the years. Somehow, ‘How was work?’ just doesn’t have the same import. Also, our daughters don’t necessarily plan to spend their work vacations with us (!) Nor should they…but it IS weird to adjust to. Anyway. I love your feedback — and yes, it would be fun to Skype. Or actually see you in person!

  11. david

    a wonderful story about wonderful and beautiful friends. I cherish our friendship and I enjoyed watching Sam grow up. Now she is no longer a child but an independent, self-sufficient adult with an interesting job. I am happy for both Mom and Sam.

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