I’ve often said, and I will stand right by it, that, as a mother, you cannot win for losing. Lean over your baby’s crib, hold your breath and listen for his breathing, and you are a good mother, a concerned mother, an attentive mother. Do it to your twenty year old baby and you are merely creepy and a little scary.
Fix your little children a nice balanced meal and you are feeding their bodies, their brains, their very spirits. Fix one for your grown up children and you are an idiot pawn of the bourgeois – pot roast and green beans weigh you down, dull your mind, blunt your spirit. Tofu and bean sprouts, wine and poetry, that’s what they want! And they want it at eleven o’clock at night. And they will invariably leave you the dishes. Their minds are on higher things than dishes.
You’ve got to change with the times, but change to what I do not know. You must care what your grown children are doing, but not too much. Not enough that you can be accused of being intrusive.
You must not use their slang, listen to their music, share their political views; nor should you use the slang of your youth, listen to the music you like or even have any political views. Your opinions should be mild and expressed infrequently. They should include such observations as, "Isn’t that nice. My, you are sooooo smart. You look fantastic! Gee, you’re strong!"
You should look clean and neat and reasonably in style, but should not try to look like anything other than a mother. Your blouse should be tucked in, your nails short and round and your swimsuit, should you insist on wearing one, should be the kind with a skirt attached.
Ideally your clothes should help you to blend quietly into the background. Except for your wallet. That should be red and perhaps trimmed with little LED lights so that you can always find it with minimal delay.
You should be moderately fond of your spouse. You may express this fondness with a little smile or a warm look in your eyes. In times of extreme emotion, say a wedding or graduation, it is acceptable to link arms with your husband. More affection than that, say a kiss on the lips or an overly long hug, is merely . . . sad. Or worse. It is cute.
Being called "cute" is the ultimate cruelty of grown children. It means that you are of no more consequence to them. Sure, get mad, stomp your foot, holler about what you will no longer tolerate. Aren’t you cute when you’re mad?
Go out and spend entirely too much money on a new hairstyle, the latest cocktail dress and some killer pumps and sashay on in to cries of, "Look at Mom, all dressed up! Isn’t she cute?"
Just the word you said when, at the age of two, one of them toddled into the room buck naked except for a pair of your high heels. So cute!
There is probably a reason mama birdies push their little birdies out of the nest. Sure, part of it is that it’s time for the fledglings to fly, time for them to strut their stuff, shake their tail feather and build their own nests.
That’s part of it. But the other part is that there comes a time when the mama birdie just wants to fly off from a clean nest in the morning and fly back to a still clean nest in the evening. Wants to pull on a pair of ratty old shorts without being subjected to any raised eyebrows.
All the things we did when they were little that nurtured them, reassured them, kept them safe and clean and fed and healthy become the things that they want least from us when they are big.
And once you resolve yourself to that, you’ll be okay. Just ride it out. They’ll be back eventually, and maybe with a couple of little chicks of their own. And what goes around, comes around. They’ll be cute too, before they know it.