The XX Factor

Your Parents Check the Weather Where You Live Because They Love You

Oooh, 43 and rainy.

I’m 30 years old and haven’t lived in the same city as my parents for nearly 12 years. But my mother still checks on me. She doesn’t constantly email or call. She doesn’t text me all that often. My mother is a weather-watcher.

As a third polar vortex threatens to coat the country in another icy blanket, I know my mom is not alone in habitually monitoring her adult child’s weather remotely. Most days, Mom checks the weather in New York, where I live, from her iPad in North Carolina. She doesn’t make a big deal about it, but occasionally she’ll remark, “I see you have another cold snap coming up on Tuesday.” Or, “I hear it might snow there this afternoon.” In the runup to Hurricane Sandy, she was so up-to-date on the latest that I’m pretty sure she had a Doppler radar map projected on her living-room wall.

Usually, though, my mom’s weather-watching is a quieter, softer experience—a gentle way to make contact without saying a word, as well as a casual conversation point to bond about the next time we speak on the phone. A colleague’s parents in South Carolina use the chilly forecast as a reason to offer to send long johns in the mail. A friend’s mother uses the weather as just a simple daily excuse to email hello. “Part of being a parent is that you never really stop thinking about or wondering about your child, even when your child is grown,” my mother explained when I asked why she always knows the temperature in my ZIP code.

Weather-watching is also a way for parents to imagine what their child’s daily life is like. From Florida, they can picture us trudging through sleet to the subway; from Oregon they’ll envision us shoveling our driveway and their grandkids stuffing feet into snow boots. This winter, it seems, has been particularly rough on the weather-watchers. A recent email from my mother-in-law in Minnesota began, “Each morning I go through this increasingly depressive exercise of checking local weather and then checking Brooklyn’s. It gives me little solace that your weather has been almost as depressing as ours.” I guess, as the wind chill drops again and I prepare myself for another round of digging out, it makes me feel a tiny bit better knowing that someone out there is thinking of me.