Author Erica James talks about the role reversal between child and parent, a theme of her new novel Mothers and Daughters…
As a single mother I brought my sons up to be independent and to fly the nest just as soon as they felt the desire to do so. They took me at my word and now in their mid-thirties my youngest son lives in Japan and my eldest in the US. Samuel has lived in Tokyo for more than ten years now and Edward moved to Los Angeles last year after several years in Seattle.
I’ve always joked that I was such a horrible mother they couldn’t wait to leave home and put as much distance between myself and them. To be fair, maybe they did think that living so far away would mean they would escape my cries for help when I ran into difficulties on my computer. But hah, no such luck, thanks to the Internet there’s no escaping my panic-filled screams for IT assistance!
Joking aside, as a parent when your children are little and totally dependent upon you and your heart bursts with love for them, you can never imagine them being responsible enough to fly the nest, or that you’d ever want them to. Yet with the passing of years, the gradual transformation from child to young adult to fully fledged grown-up becomes a reality and then the world beckons. Certainly, that’s how it was for us.
Following their dreams
Perhaps my sons’ wanderlust stemmed from us having lived abroad when they were young, or because of the holidays we’d enjoyed which had exposed them to different cultures and different ways of life. Whatever the cause, when I realised my youngest son had developed a strong interest in all things Japanese, having begun teaching himself the language when he was fourteen years of age, I could see where the future might lead and was all for encouraging him. Everyone needs a dream, and his dream was to live in Japan. Did I think it would be forever? Maybe not. But even if I had suspected it would be forever, I would not have dissuaded him. To deny Samuel his dream would have been a step in the direction of destroying the closeness of our relationship, and that’s something I would never risk.
The same was true when my eldest son announced that he and his wife and young son would be leaving London to live in the US. I was excited for them – I could see they both relished the adventure that lay ahead. Perhaps vicariously I knew I would enjoy the adventure too. Which, until the pandemic, I frequently did. I’ve grown to love my visits to Japan and now LA and I feel extraordinarily lucky that I’ve been given the chance to see these places thanks to my sons.
I’m a long-distance grandmother too which makes for some fun FaceTime chats, especially with my fabulously imperious three-year-old granddaughter who may or may not be in the mood for a screen chat. I might only have the chance to see my sons and grandchildren a few times a year, but it really doesn’t lessen the love I have for them.
Both my adult sons live thousands of miles away yet the physical distance between us has done nothing to weaken the closeness between us. I’d go so far as to say it’s made us even closer because when we do see each other, the time is so special.
I was never going to be a full-time-hands-on grandmother. As an author, I just wouldn’t have the time – does that make me a bad person? In my latest novel Mothers and Daughters, Naomi’s eldest daughter, Martha, is desperate to have a child. Martha has it all arranged in her head, that her widowed mother should be sensible and downsize from the family home and live nearer her so she’ll be on hand to help out when the baby arrives. But Naomi, in her early sixties, has other plans and as much as she loves both her daughters and wants only the best for them, she has plans of her own. She certainly isn’t prepared to be dismissed as old and ultimately erased, or forced to succumb to the reversal of roles Martha has in mind for them.
In many ways, there are parts of Mothers and Daughters which could almost be autobiographical in that I would hate to have my wings clipped by either of my sons just because I’m now the age I am – sixty-two. After all, I never clipped their wings, did I?
Mothers and Daughters by Erica James
A gloriously compelling tale of mothers and daughters, secrets and love…
Her eldest daughter, Martha, is just like her father, very much in control of where her life is going. If she could just get pregnant, life would be complete for her and her husband.
Willow, the youngest, was always more sunny and easy-going, yet drifted through life, much to her father’s frustration. But now, with charming new boyfriend, Rick, she has a very good reason to settle down.
The three women are as close as can be. But there are things Naomi has kept from her daughters. Like the arrival of Ellis, a long-lost friend from way back, now bringing the fun and spark back into her life. And she’s certainly never told them that her marriage to their father wasn’t quite what it seemed…