Transformation Overnight

Written by Jane Brooks

A mother's reflection on her grown up son. There's a defining moment when you realize that your child is no longer a child. Columnist Jane Brooks writes of her epiphany:
If you're lucky, there's a singular, defining moment when it hits you that your kid is no longer a child, when both of you acknowledge and embrace the fact. That's the instant in which the intricate, mysterious parent/child tango you've been dancing for years becomes instead a lovely, soothing waltz.

For me, that moment was characterized by something as simple as a sandwich. It happened just a few weeks ago. I was visiting my older son, a recent college grad, in his new environs when he offered to make me lunch.

Mind you, it wasn't exactly nouvelle cuisine — no pesto mayo, roasted peppers or dense sprouted nine-grain bread. Just store-brand marshmallow soft whole wheat with deli turkey, mustard, lettuce and tomato. But the point is, he made me a sandwich, in his own kitchen, on his own turf.

After 22 years of maternal servitude, I was at last a guest, waited on by my son, my adult child who now pays rent, owns a car and contributes to a 401K. I sat there savoring what had to be the tastiest turkey sandwich of all time, and I knew that things would never be the same. At that moment, I became a willing partner in the revised familial dance, only too happy to forego my role as leader.

Just because he's financially independent and 3,000 miles away, it's unlikely that this man-child of mine will stop phoning simply to let me know when he's feeling lousy. And it's doubtful that I'll refrain from offering unsolicited advice.

But what has changed is that each of us understands that these habitual behaviors no longer require action. He no more anticipates a Fed Ex care package than I expect him to clean up his apartment because I found it only a shade more habitable than "Animal House."(I admit I emptied the wastebaskets once, but resisted the urge to get out the sponge and cleanser.)

It would be nice if there were a way we could both always get what we want from each other at any time, be it a clean toilet bowl or a bowl of homemade soup. But it's nicer that neither of us really cares if we don't. It's just special to be together, mother and son. Friends. And as any dancer knows, it's a lot easier to waltz than to tango.

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