Prompted by the Young




My youngest daughter is graduating from college in a few weeks and preparing to move to New York City for her first job.

I keep offering to help with neighborhood selection and apartment hunting but she’s been politely waving me off. “I’m good, Mom,” she says. It’s becoming clear that she doesn’t need my help because, the truth is, she knows more about navigating urban space than I do.

On the subject of living as a single woman living, working and socializing in the city, I have virtually nothing to offer her.

I’ve been sitting with this realization now for some time, mulling over the meaning in the moment when you recognize that your child is now the expert.

It’s yet another in a long succession of prompts, brought on by the young.

I share this with you — especially for my writing students who are currently on break — as a reminder of how deep that well of story ideas can run from the young ones in our lives. Whether they are our sons, daughters, nieces, nephews, cousins, godchildren, patients, clients or neighbors, there are so many rich prompts that can come from their lifecycle events, big and small.

A few that have come to mind recently:

  • My eldest daughter – also an urban animal – has had many more years of dating experience than I so what, if anything, can I offer in the way of useful advice?
  • Many of my friend’s children are graduating from college and getting their first jobs, which has been bringing up memories of my own.
  • What’s it like to be the child of a traveling musician, a kid who goes on tour with Mom?
  • As the weather is warming, the children in my neighborhood are riding their bicycles which is conjuring up memories of learning how to ride and where we went with that newfound freedom.
  • Photo diving can be very fruitful for memory jogging. I can recall where each of the above photographs were taken, and the mood. The first, in 1997, in our front yard. Mood, goofy. The second, in 2004, at the New Jersey shore. Mood, relaxed. The third taken in 2013, on the deck of a Skokie restaurant for a belated Mother’s Day dinner, just me and my girls. Mood, well fed and happy.


Photographs by Ellen Blum Barish