In Marni Jackson’s new book, Home Free: The Myth of the Empty Nest (Thomas Allen Publishers), she contrasts her parents’ supportive but distant child-rearing attitude with her own hands-on style. “The book explores how we went from the generation gap to this more fused kind of family,” she says. Speaking on the phone from her Toronto home, Jackson (BA 1968 Victoria) recalls bumming around Europe in her 20s, even living in a cave in Greece with a boyfriend, and hardly ever touching base with her folks. However, when her adult son takes off on a hitchhiking tour of the American Southwest and Central America, she finds it emotionally difficult to be separated from him.
Jackson’s publisher had asked her if she wanted to do a sequel to The Mother Zone, her 1992 bestselling memoir about being an older first-time mom. “I chuckled and said, ‘that’s hilarious,’ because my son is now 24. But then I went, ‘wait a minute, I’m still on the job here and he’s very much in my thoughts.’” She argues that there must be some middle ground between excessive detachment – as her mother lies dying, she laments the emotional gap between the two – and excessive involvement. “There’s more intimacy now [between parents and children] than there was in my day, and that’s a good thing. But the job is on the parental side – letting go.”