Parenting Adult Children: When To Stop Nagging And Let 20 Somethings Grow Up

My children, now 21 and 23, are old enough to do everything I did when I was their age. It's funny how that happens. With one living in Brooklyn and the other in college in Ithaca, it is rare, indeed, when we are all in the same sphere. But when the convergence occurs, it is heavenly.

Last weekend, they came home, and we all piled into the family station wagon to visit Grandma. The two-hour ride was priceless ... just like in the old days, but without someone spilling their Cheerios or throwing up in the back seat. I was completely loving the moment, pulled down my visor to put on some lipstick and checked out my progeny in the rear-view mirror.

"Does anyone comb their hair around here anymore?" I thought to myself, as I looked back at them, oblivious to the world as they listened to their iPhones. It looked like they had both rolled out on the wrong side of the bed and, in so doing, didn't have a chance to run a brush through their hair before getting into the car. Had they been little, I would have done it myself to be sure they looked neat for their grandmother. And while moments before they were my 20-something cherubs, now they were completely getting on my nerves.

The over-riding question is this: when our children are young adults, do we have any place to "comment" on uncombed hair, cracked nail polish, table manners or strange outfits? Many of the things that I used to wrangle with my children are now out of my hands. Since eating Spaghetti-O's at the kiddy table in the kitchen, they have graduated to the big table in the dining room. Milk in a sippy-cup has long been replaced with wine in a glass. Heck, they don't even live at home anymore. Do I have the right to tell them to mind their Ps and Qs and while they're at it, pick up a brush?

You'll be proud to know that I said nothing about their hair the entire weekend. (I can almost hear their response to that one. "Wow. Yeah. Great, Mom.")

But, and let's be honest, the maternal instinct can only be silenced for so long. My mind bounced onto another matter of equal importance in my family: thank-you notes. I had been a good sport about grooming, but there was this one other little thing I needed to touch upon before they dispersed and went back to college and Brooklyn.

"Not now," I thought to myself. "Everyone is getting along so nicely. Let it go." I repeated those last three words as if they were my new mantra. After holding my tongue for hours, though, I couldn't resist.

"Just a thought, but did you guys write thank you notes to Grandma for the nice birthday presents she sent to you?"

I know. I know. I shouldn't have asked. At 21- and 23-years-old, if they were remiss in writing thank you notes, it was no longer a reflection on me.

"Oh, yeah, I wrote Grandma a few weeks ago," said my 23-year-old November "baby."

"I did, too," chimed in my 21-year-old December "baby."

You mean without me standing over them, they had written their thank yous? You mean that when they were living at home, the 17 years of haranguing them to write notes to acknowledge someone's thoughtfulness had actually paid off?

"You guys are the best," I beamed.

My maternal pride was turned up to 11 as we drove up our road and my husband pulled in and turned off the motor. Just like the opening to "Entourage," the HBO comedy show, the four of us opened our doors and stepped out of the car.

I basked in knowing that something, somehow, somewhere ... at least on the topic of
"The Importance of Writing Thank You Notes" ... had gone right.

Now, onto the big thing: does anyone remember how important it is to wear shined shoes? I'll try to bring that up discreetly with my 20-somethings on the next family road trip.

Or not.

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