finished college, lived with friends in a house, completed several
rites of passage and then moved home. At first, there was something
compelling about having some more time with this child I adore since I
believed there were so many lessons I failed to teach him. Would this
be my opportunity to make up for all the things I wished I had done
earlier? Maybe he would learn to fold wash right from the dryer. Cook
something healthy that took longer to cook than to eat. That would be
nice. Perhaps he could learn to write a decent thank you note. As time goes on, I realize we are just mother and son in real time. No
going back to redo anything. Habits are set and, in fact, are even
more pronounced when he slips into his old bedroom and old patterns.
If I thought I ever had impact or control over his behavior, I was
delusional anyway. It is clearer to me now that my son is his own
person, on his own journey, and just happens to be my roommate. It is
safe and comforting for him here. We have set up a routine of daily
life as if he were a young dependent. But he is not so young. I did
not mean to set this up; it just emerged.I am an in-charge type of person and I took charge. I cook all the dinners. I feed his cats. I keep the calendar and assure we are responsible about appointments. I clean the house and make sure he helps by giving him his to-do list. I ask two or three times for the
recycling bins to be brought back in without showing impatience or
stress. This routine is just like when he was ten years old.
I have always loved being Jake’s mother. I still do. But when is a
good time for him to be more independent? According to the last
census, 56 percent of men age 18 to 24 and 48 percent of women live
with their parents. Certainly I never would have dreamed of moving in
with my parents after college. I never would have expected any
financial support or wanted any guidance, but then my parents did not
know who I was. I kept myself hidden, had a superficial –but
loving– relationship of respect and distance. I took care of myself.
In contrast, I know so much about my son Jake. My friends and
relatives today know so much about their kids. We are in a different
kind of culture than the one I am familiar with.
We are on speedial with our kids. They come to us for everything. Of
course they want to live at home. We have worked hard to make a home
that works for them. I see this glorious connection to our sons and
daughters and wonder how they will ever become independent of us. How
will they maneuver through the tough challenges of life outside the
warm confines of the home? Are we coddling them into a connection of
collusion that stunts their growth? Are they prepared to face the
realities of the big world out there when we are defining the
realities for them daily?
On this Mother’s Day I will celebrate how lucky I am to be Jake’s
mother and will seriously consider whether I should propose that he
and we might be better off if he had roommates closer to his own age.
I am not sure how the conversation will go or if Jake will take me up
on my suggestion but I do know I will reassure my “boomerang child”
that he can stay as long as he needs to.
Aired on NPR 5/6/2011