The summer of living with a clamp on your tongue

Posted by Barbara Meltz  July 31, 2007 11:32 AM

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This morning, my 19-year-old son had to be at work at 9:45. The store where he's working is about an eight-minute drive away. (His driving, not mine.) I happened to be leaving the house at 9:30 and I still hadn't heard the pitter patter of not-so-little feet.

This is one of those moments of reckoning for parents. Your child is capable of taking care of himself away from home for nine or so months of the year. Yet in those few (dare I say, precious?) months when he lives at home again, you are still the parent.

This morning, I debated whether to run upstairs to make sure (a) he was still alive; (b) he hadn't come down with an alarmingly high fever; (c) the alarm had in fact gone off and he was going for the world record of the least amount of time between rolling out of the bed and arriving at work with clothes on, teeth brushed.

Just as I was having these thoughts, he arrived in the kitchen. It was 9:32. He grabbed a glass of cran-apple juice, and headed for the door. And that's when I couldn't help myself: "Do you want to run a comb through your hair?" I'm pretty sure my tone was merely helpful, not motherly. He returned to the bathroom mirror for, oh, 15 seconds. It was 9:33. He could still be at work early.

And then, oh my, the mother in me bubbled over and out: "Won't you be cranky without eating?"

In the oh-so-tolerant, somewhat weary tone of one speaking yet again to an impaired thinker, he said, "I'll be fine, mom."

What's your summer experience been like? I'd love to hear how others manage this balancing act of being the parent and not being constantly in your child's face. This blog doesn't offer opportunity for comments, but I can post some of your responses. Email me at

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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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