“You mean you’re going out like THAT?”
The words are out of my mouth before I can stuff them back in, and I realize that these are fighting words, downright dangerous words, with adult offspring.
The “THAT’ refers to the disreputable jeans and T-shirts that our daughter and son-in-law are wearing for their foray to the movies. “THAT’ takes in the sneakers, the slightly disarrayed hair, the general, well, nonchalance of their appearance.
Even as I feel the tension in the air, now thick enough to slice with a dull knife, I remind myself that how our daughter and son-in-law dress is no business of mine. Not any more.
Not now that they are midlifers, parents themselves and obviously capable of deciding what to wear to the local movie house.
But one forgets.
In the company of our “children,” a term that somehow seems absurd when the people in question are well past the point of protective custody, we revert back to old habits that die hard.
Sometimes, we can’t resist the urge to comment. Observe. Point out. Or, God forbid, criticize.
Show me a parent who can resist the occasional craving to point out a shortcoming to a person whose diapers she once changed and I will show you a person worthy of sainthood.
Show me an adult child who responds openly and with grace, and I will show you that paragon every mother or father dreams of claiming.
I keep hoping I’ll master the rules of parenthood at this new stage when I am a cross between an annoyance and a semi-geriatric burden.
How I miss the simpler times when I was wise, when I was a person who knew how to find lost gobs of Play-Doh and explain rain and why grass grows.
Back then, three little girls honestly took my advice on such weighty matters as whether to wear the green corduroys with the yellow sweater and how to separate eggs.
Did they resist my suggestions on the big stuff, the issues of values and ideals and morality?
Did they wince when I offered some unsolicited gems of wisdom on friendship or sincerity?
Memory dims. I am quite conditioned to the “Thanks ,but no thanks, Mom” approach that has defined the last few decades.
So I am a study, these days, in swallowing hard and remaining silent when Nancy mentions that she and Mike are planning to fly standby to a country that once had revolutions regularly or when Amy notes, ever-so-casually, that she’s thinking of cutting her beautiful, curly auburn hair into something called a “cap cut” that’s all the rage in Manhattan.
I will undoubtedly have lapses.
There will be those trying times when I forget myself and show dismay at their ideas or their appearance or their plans.
But now that I am no longer accountable for teaching anyone the basic lessons about life — now that our children are well past the need for nurturing, at least on a daily basis — I am mastering the fine art of silence.
It doesn’t come naturally.
It doesn’t come without extreme discipline and control.
And occasionally, I need to remind three very, very sophisticated daughters that I am the very same person who once potty-trained them, taught them to chew with their mouths closed and chased away the demons of their bad dreams.
All that counts for something.
But it still doesn’t give a mother license to question bedraggled jeans and T-shirts for “going out.”
Next time, I won’t even bat an eyelash.
Hope springs eternal.
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