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The girls with dancing curls 

Deidree Friesen

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She calls me her ‘bestie’ sometimes. She’s like my best friend, but she’s my mom. She’s crazy though. That is a fact.” – Elyse Pollock, freshman art and psychology major 

We have a really close relationship. And I’d have to say, even though I’m her mom, and this may be weird, but she is one of my closest friends.” – Miranda Pollock, assistant professor of graphic design 

 

Hair that dances, sound effects, maniacal giggles, passion for the arts. These traits only begin to describe Miranda and Elyse Pollock, one of Buena Vista University’s mother/daughter duos on campus. What’s it like to share the college experience with your mom as a professor? What’s it like teaching a class with your daughter enrolled as a student? There are downsides and benefits, difficult and proud moments. How does this artistic dyad tackle the conflicts and embrace the valuable memories?  

It all starts with Miranda and Elyse’s mutual admiration for art. For Miranda, art is her main form of communication. Miranda comes from a line of artists and shared her uncle was an early inspiration for her. Ever since she can remember, she’s wanted to be an artist. For Elyse, time stands still in moments when her creativity takes control. She sees it as a way to escape and express herself.

“I just get lost in what I’m doing,” said Elyse.

Art is everywhere within the dwelling of these two artists. In the Pollock house, art is a way of life.  

“I don’t know if this is good or bad, but she was in the house with someone who was always analyzing art,” said Miranda. “Whether it was a page in a magazine, a layout, a menu, a commercial; I was always looking at and speaking about the visuals around us and how we interpret them.” 

As an art professor and a mother of an artist, Miranda juggles two different perspectives when it comes to Elyse’s artwork. Miranda is proud of the work her daughter creates and she’s not afraid to challenge her. She motivates her to learn and grow as an artist by critiquing her work and giving her advice.  

“I get two moms. Professor mom and mom,” said Elyse.  

She says in some ways, her mom has always treated her like a student.  

“I mean, I feel like some people hear that and think, ‘Oh my god, your mom neglects you!’ No, she doesn’t,” laughs Elyse. “She’s always told me to question, okay, what am I creating and why am I creating this?”  

Miranda suggested that Elyse look at her artwork from different angles, step back, sometimes flip a piece upside down to see how it changes. Elyse appreciates the adivce Miranda gives her and says it has helped her improve as an artist.  When looking at Elyse’s work, Miranda makes an effort to switch between “professor” to “mom” based on time and place of the critique.

“I’d have to remind myself when I would look at her stuff to be mom once in a while and say, ‘Wow, I’m really proud of you!’ Instead of professor mom saying, ‘You know if you move that just a little here, or if you increase the line weight of this part, it would make a stronger piece,'” said Miranda 

As her professor, Miranda challenges Elyse and has higher expectations of her, mostly because she knows what Elyse is capable of. Balancing a mother/daughter and professor/student relationship can be difficult.  

“Sometimes she comes in, she hangs out, she’s my daughter. Other times she’s just another student. And I try to treat her as I would every other student,” explains Miranda. “If anything, I am harder on her because I don’t want anyone to ever believe that I treat her in a more favorable way.” 

Mary Mello-Nee, associate professor of art, is a colleague and friend of Miranda and has known Elyse well before she started attending BVU. Mary’s daughter, Nicole Nee, also attended BVU. Prior to Elyse’s arrival, Mary gave Miranda some advice and shared what she might expect from the experience.  

“In a lot of ways, I was tougher on Nicole than the other kids and Nicole expected that. And I kind of see the same thing with Miranda,” said Mello-Nee. “We, because we know Elyse so well – her skill – we’ll make tougher comments to her. ‘You did that? You could do better.’ So, our expectations are probably a tad bit higher.”  

Mary made it clear they expect great things from all students, but sometimes when you know a student well, it’s hard not be tough and push them further.  

Another challenge Mary and Miranda discussed was what Elyse should call Miranda. Mom? Pollock? Miranda? Professor? 

“I don’t even know what to call her,” said Elyse. “I don’t want to get used to calling her Pollock or Miranda. First name basis is weird. My mom said, ‘You can call me Professor Mom.’ So, I gave her a nickname, ‘Professor Giver-of-life.'” 

“Every once in a while, she’ll call me ‘mom’ and I’m like, ‘Elyse! Not mom.’ In this classroom I am not your mom. Outside of the classroom, I am your mom,” said Miranda. “So, we’re still trying to figure out the name. And that is hard.”   

Figuring out the transition from high school to college is life changing. Most students move away from home and both parents and young adults learn how to live without one another. It’s different for Miranda and Elyse. 

“Well, I also live at home. So, financially it’s pretty amazing,” said Elyse. ” But I don’t get as much freedom as [other] college kids because they’re completely off on their own, doing their own thing.”  

“We’ve been trying to figure out our relationship on so many fronts,” explained Miranda. “How do you change from a mother/daughter relationship to a mother/adult daughter relationship? And that is harder to do when she’s right here. She can share with me whatever she wants to share but she’s an adult, she makes her own decisions. That has been an interesting transition.”  

When Miranda says “she can share with me whatever she wants to share” she means it. The two are very close. Elyse says she is comfortable talking to her mom about anything and everything. She shared that they comfortably talk about things most mothers and daughters don’t discuss casually.  

“My mom and I have always had a really close relationship with each other. There hasn’t always been times where I’ve valued that, which I probably should,” said Elyse. “She’s always expressed to me that I don’t ever have to be afraid to talk about anything, especially with her. It’s always just been like that. We’re just open.” 

“They’re very close, you can tell. They support each other really well. They remind me of myself and my daughter when she was a student here. They don’t get tired of hanging out with each other,” shared Mello-Nee. 

According to both Miranda and Elyse, there are pros to having your daughter/mom on the same campus. Miranda is thrilled to have Elyse around. She says Elyse is able to gain as well as add much to the program. Personal space and distance from parents can be a good thing for most college students. But during the first year, it can be overwhelming to figure out everything alone. Elyse appreciates the fact that her mom is close by. She realizes most other students communicate with their parents from a distance. 

The two carry an abundance of love for one another. Miranda is proud of Elyse’s personality. According to Miranda, Elyse has an attitude of justice, she voices inequity when she sees it, and she sees her personal privilege as an opportunity to help others. 

“She is not afraid to play. Which I think helps her in so many ways. That she is willing to explore without fear. I think that helps her, not only as an artist, but as a human. [I’m] pretty blessed to have her as a daughter because she’s a pretty cool human. Yeah,” pauses Miranda. “I kinda like that kid.”  

Students, faculty, and random people on campus will approach Elyse to ask if she is Miranda’s daughter. She says it’s weird, especially when she doesn’t know who they are. The two are so similar in appearance and action that it’s very easy to tell they are related.  

Mello-Nee agrees that the pair is “a joy to have around.” She says Miranda and her “just click” and she brings an appreciated enthusiasm to every discussion. Mello-Nee says having a “mini-Miranda” around adds to the fun. 

“I feel like a mini-Miranda,” said Elyse. “First of all, our hair. Our hair dances together. Sound effects, facial expressions,” she continued.  

Miranda has very similar thoughts. 

“She looks very similar to me in many ways. Her dancing hair, yeah, she’s got my hair. Her mannerisms. Her talents. She is essentially a mini-me. Sometimes it’s scary,” said Miranda. “But she is more fearless than I ever was, which I think is a good thing.” 

Near the end of Miranda’s interview, Elyse casually walked into her mom’s office. In place of a typical “hello,” Elyse greets her mom by leaning back and making a sound like, “aaauuhhggcckk,” complete with bouncing “finger-gun” hands. Miranda mocks the sound right back at Elyse, laughs and says, “And see, we’re like that!”  

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