When it’s time to land the helicopter

brownnestMore than ever, experts agree that helicopter parenting — or over-parenting — is resulting in serious problems for young adults. Are we raising a generation of “boomerang” kids? Why are so many young people afraid of taking risks? And why do today’s parents dread the empty nest?  In my newest column for Michigan Prime, I offer a personal view on this issue — and I recommend a brand-new, important book on how to avoid the pitfalls of over-parenting. Look for the print edition in your Sunday Detroit Free Press, or click here to read the column online (page 4).

Home for the holidays

DSCN2880Now in its second printing and available on KindleWriting Home is a collection of my published magazine essays and family newspaper columns. Awarded several prizes for creative nonfiction, it’s been dubbed “a love letter to home and family life.” If you enjoy my personal blog and current newspaper essays, you might appreciate this collection of earlier memoirs, too.

To read excerpts, reviews, and the new introduction to the Kindle edition, please click this link and visit the book’s page on Amazon.

To purchase Writing Home locally, visit The Yellow Door Art Market, where you’ll find a wonderful selection of other Michigan books and gifts for everyone on your list.

 

 

Home is here, now

So I’ll try to see into your eyes right now, and stay right here, ’cause these are the good old days.” — Carly Simon, “Anticipation”

Thanksgiving2My grown son, who’s married and lives in Chicago, is back in town with his wife for a friend’s wedding. It’s a short weekend visit, but I plan to enjoy every minute of it.

This morning I recalled an earlier autumn homecoming, nine years ago, when Nate first left the state for college. As a brand-new empty nester, Id been anticipating his fall break and return home. I looked forward to being Mom again, if only for a few days.

Two weeks earlier, I channeled my inner June Cleaver and planned a week’s worth of family meals and favorite snacks. I reorganized my work deadlines, freeing extra time to take him out for lunch at his former haunts. My husband repaired the plaster damage from a roof leak in Nates bedroom, and then repainted it.

As soon as our son walked in the side door, the truth hit home: What the kid really needed was a low-key week. Stressed-out from exams, Nate wasnt expecting a fanfare or fancy dinners. Hed been looking forward to sleeping in and simply hanging out with family and friends. In my efforts to turn his visit into a special event, Id forgotten that my son didnt want to feel like a guest in his own home.

Realizing my error, I released my grip and let the week unfurl without a plan.

In retrospect, the high points of that first break were the times we ran a few mundane errands together. Driving around town, between trips to the dry cleaner and the drugstore, we chatted about Nates classes, his new friends in the dorm, and the music he was listening to then. College was turning my snarky adolescent boy into a thoughtful young man — and I found myself enjoying his company.

fallcolor3

More than wrinkles and gray hair, our kids never fail to remind us of our own aging.  Overnight, they morph from preschoolers in OshKosh overalls to college students in size 12 running shoes. Letting go also requires that we accept the fact that time isnt standing still for any of us.

Its a sobering thought — and ever more poignant when autumn leaves start to scatter across our doorstep.

Earlier this fall, for instance, I watched from a distance while the neighborhood teens posed for homecoming photographs in their formalwear. Giddy with anticipation, the girls could barely stand still while a group of proud parents focused their cameras. The boys struggled to look comfortable in freshly pressed suits and ties. Their youthful beauty took my breath away, and my heart ached a little.

It occurred to me then that my days of snapping photos of prom gowns and homecoming suits were over. And I wondered: Had I fully experienced those moments, or simply captured them on film to savor later? How often had I dashed mindlessly from one “special” event to the next?

Recalling the lyrics to Carly Simon’s “Anticipation,” I’m struck by the fact that our “good old days” are unfolding right here and right now. But we have to slow down long enough to appreciate them.

Its a worthy thought to ponder before the onset of the winter holidays – before all of us get tangled up in holiday lights and lists, decorating marathons, and long lines at the malls.

In anticipation of Thanksgiving, Im adding all things beautifully mundane and uneventful to my gratitude list.  Im counting my commonplace blessings — the bowl of red apples on the kitchen counter; the mischievous cat chasing the pens on my desk; a pot of vegetable soup simmering in my slow cooker; a weekend visit with my son and his wife.

This season Ill practice coming home to the present moment, to the grace of ordinary days on my calendar.

The not-so-empty nest

It’s not only children who grow.  Parents do too.  As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours.  I can’t tell my children to reach for the sun.  All I can do is reach for it, myself.”  ~Joyce Maynard

birdbellDid you hear all the school bells ringing last week? Though autumn isn’t officially here yet, the start of the new school year never fails to begin the season for me. Change is in the air — and I’m ready for it!

For many who’ve launched their kids to college for the first time, it’s also the beginning of the empty nest transition.

If you’re having a tough time letting go of your student, you might find some comfort in my new column for Michigan Prime. The September issue — which also features great back-to-school tips for middle-aged and “senior” students — will be delivered this Sunday with The Detroit News and Free Press, or you can click here to read it online.

Exciting days ahead!

Autumn is coming with its days of gold, its days of reverie and of you—oh, such delightful hours that my heart burns within me at the anticipation.”~Byron Caldwell Smith, in a letter to Kate Stephens

Autumn is a time of intense beauty and change — one of my favorite seasons. This September, in particular, will be a milestone for our family. Nate and Andrea are getting married at the end of this month, and we’re all shifting into high gear for the busy weeks ahead.

There are so many details in need of attention. Though I don’t have half the responsibilities of the bride’s mother, I have a list of things to do. Doug and I will soon finalize the flowers and our menu for the rehearsal dinner, for starters, and I’ll be selecting music for the bagpiper who’ll pipe us out of the church after the wedding ceremony. I also need to schedule my mother for a fancy hairdo and a manicure — in addition scheduling to my own.

In the midst of it all, my mother’s dementia is progressing. More changes to consider. While I was on a short vacation in Glen Arbor this week, I got three phone messages from the assisted living residence where Mom is staying. Apparently Mom had a series of anxiety attacks and wanted me to return home to take her to the hospital. Luckily, the nurse was able to get the attacks under control — and I was able to stay in northern Michigan for another two days.

All of this is a long way of explaining why I won’t be blogging or visiting Facebook as often as usual. For now, I’m focusing my attention on becoming part of a wonderful new family and gaining the dearest daughter-in-law ever.

Lately I’ve felt compelled to step back and take a deep breath; to savor it all privately. I want to pull down the old photo albums that documented the whirlwind days and years that brought us to this moment, then exhale a silent prayer of thanks. And in the days ahead, I look forward to gathering again with longtime friends, dear neighbors, and family members who’ve watched Nate and Andrea grow up and shared so many rich memories with us.

A son’s wedding is one of life’s most beautiful changes …. and I’m unable to put my feelings into words just yet. Wishing all of you a lovely fall season! — Cindy La Ferle