“Order the margarita pizza,” I said to my son. “You won’t eat the sausage one your sister ordered.”
As if he had mastered the art of sotto voce, through clinched teeth my son said, “I am 30 years old. Please stop telling me what and how to order my food.”
I have three adult children. I have a husband too, and my husband and older son are finicky eaters so after many years of marriage and raising this particular child, I have gotten into the habit of.…let’s just call it helping them navigate menus in restaurants. So I thought this was a simple helpful hint that was met with an icy response and a bemused look from his girlfriend who sat on his other side. I backed off, licked my maternal wounds, feeling dressed down but knowing that on a teensy level he was right.
Parenting adult children is hard stuff. It’s not just the parent; it’s also the child that has to relearn behavior. This same son is living with his girlfriend in a house that he recently bought. Whenever problems arise with this new house, he calls me. The other day he told me that there was a leak in their master bathroom sink. It seems that the vanity the previous owner installed to sell the house was a piece of junk. So I put on my supermom cape and got to work. I gave him advice about where to find a plumber in his area and I included phone numbers of one or two that I thought might work. I emailed friends who I knew were versed in home repair and decorating and sounded the mommy SOS alert, calling all mothers in support of solving my son’s (and now my) problem. I then searched online for double sink vanities. When I felt I had compiled enough information to send him, I texted, “Let’s talk. I have some ideas for the vanity.” He texted back, “So do we. We have it covered. But thanks mom.”
I couldn’t blame him. He never actually asked me to help him, we both just fell into our time honored roles; he sharing with me that he had a problem and me jumping into Rambo-like action to take care of it. Only on his part this was now informational, more conversation than a cry for help. But for me, it was still my raison d’etre after 30 years of being a parent. My brain knew I could let go but my heart was slow to catch up to this new fact of life.
I email my young adult children articles warning them of the dangers of getting even one bad sunburn, the evils of sugar, the benefits of meditation, and the newest research on the most efficient types of exercise. I ask, what did you think of the article I sent about running 10 minutes a day being enough for your health and they inevitably say that they haven’t read it yet but they will.
When our younger son or our daughter calls my husband or me about a work dilemma or a tricky situation with a friend, my knee jerk reaction is to quickly want to solve the problem, rescue them from being hurt or making a bad decision. But more and more I’m finding out that they only want me to listen. Without the direct question, “What do you think I should do?” they are not, it turns out, expecting me to have the answer. And even then, I need to remind myself that they are adults and it’s judicious to ask them what they think they should do because, if I’m truthful for a second here, I likely don’t have a better solution than the one they could figure out for themselves. It’s just so agonizing to let go of my omniscient Mom role that has convinced myself that I know what’s best even though I know that I really don’t. My crystal ball broke years ago.
After that dinner where my son let me know that I was to hand over the reins of his eating choices to him and that he definitely did not need to order the margarita pizza, we all sat back in our chairs bemoaning how full we all were. Except that son. All I heard from him was a plaintive, “I’m so hungry.”
I didn’t say a word.