“How I spent my summer vacation?” This isn’t quite that, but… When a parent can spend extended time with an adult child who no longer lives at home, that is a rare privilege. Or, it can be — if you get along, if your habits are compatible, and if the reason for sharing time together is a good one.
This summer, I was able to do exactly that — enjoy sharing my space with my younger son. During that time, we both went about our usual days, occasionally working side by side in companionable quiet. And nearly every day, he helped out with all the domestic tasks.
No, he doesn’t do windows. Then again, I never asked. But my floors, kitchen counters, and laundry space have never looked better!
One of the nicest activities for me?
We cooked together! It usually occurred spontaneously; I might man the meat while he orchestrated an exotic salad, or he would wow me with his version of healthy brown rice mixed with every veggie in the house.
For three months — what a treat to have so much time! — my kiddo took on the lion’s share of the “maintenance” duties. And with no complaints. What mother doesn’t welcome that, especially if you work very long hours? Talk about a far cry from the teenager I flew to college a few years back. In those days, I could barely get him to make his bed!
Conversations in the evening?
Another plus. The subject matter was meandering and often touched on the arts, which of course I love. Laughter was plentiful, he challenged my preconceived notions on more than one topic, and he succeeded in getting me to change a few habits. It’s amazing what happens when we open our minds to hearing different opinions.
The egg teaches the chicken…
I remember what fun it was when my elder son was abroad and he would Skype me to chat about this and that. With summers spent in Europe (working or studying), that connection felt essential and very special. Because my younger son wasn’t a talker, I had to “intuit” what he was thinking or feeling. Quite a challenge, right? Those days are gone. He tells me what he thinks, he tells me what he feels, he elaborates on his points, and he asks me how I’m doing and what I need.
I’m pinching myself: He really is an adult. And more than that, he’s a young man who is learning and acting on responsibility. And he takes initiative. He doesn’t wait to be asked.
So sweeping or cleaning floors, doing laundry, organizing closets and paperwork, scrubbing the stove, tending to the yard work, running errands to the supermarket or pharmacy, lifting and fixing, not to mention cleaning up after meals… Can I just say… it’s been amazing?
He’s even been careful loading and unloading the dishwasher so as not to crack and break plates and glasses. Definitely not a bull in a china shop.
Also duly noted: his attentiveness. Men get a bad rap on this one — earning the label of “obtuse male.” Then again, I’ve experienced numerous examples of precisely that in my lifetime. I don’t know if my son is the exception or if this new generation (Millennials?) is more aware. I know this: My younger son is highly observant and consequently, he anticipated my needs and scolded me when I was doing things that I shouldn’t (that might aggravate my back, for example).
Was everything perfect between us?
Of course not. Perfect doesn’t exist. There was one difference of opinion that took me a bit to get over, but we talked about it and cleared it up. There were other times when I was sitting up waiting for him to get in. (He didn’t know that; what parent doesn’t worry about cars on Saturday nights?) But otherwise?
It was a remarkable three months.
I would wish this for every parent, and perhaps all the more so for every single mother who has struggled to make sure that her children grow up right. To feel that love, caring and kindness returned is very, very sweet.
The opportunity to have so much time with him one-on-one has made this a summer like no other. And missing his quirky, creative, caring and reassuring presence, like empty nest all over again.
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