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Our two older sons have been away from home for years. One evening during a recent visit, the eldest, 24, balked when I asked when to expect him home. "Mom", he chided, "I'm a man!" The second, now 21, has a pasta maker, a bread machine, a down comforter and my recipe for brisket. I'd rather not know too much right now about his other sources of solace. Our only daughter has returned to college, hopefully to build on a first year of outstanding academics, great friendships, and awesome athletics. Though the family credit card helped pave her path, she doesn't seem to need the "Mommy" of old, who stroked her forehead, soothed her fears and baked chocolate ruggelach worth every gram of cholesterol. And it seems that just last week, the "baby" was learning not to run with scissors. Now he has turned 13, transforming daily with enough turbulence to turn a breeze into a hurricane. If only I understood the coordinates! I still assuage with the occasional bowl of chicken soup, but the essence of parenting has changed in our home. Like most of my friends, I am on the verge of trading maternity for menopause. The only things pregnant in our world these days are pauses.

I have always had the privilege of a career to accompany my caregiving, but "Mommy" was a title to which I had long aspired. Though never a great fan of diapers, laundry, or strained carrots, I loved looking at eyes filled with wonder while I enlightened them about how the pit got inside the peach or why Mr. Rogers wore such dorky sweaters. I thrilled to crises that could be resolved with a kiss and a cookie. Perhaps one of the great perks of parenting is having helpless creatures believe you're omniscient. "Mommy can do it," was always a refrain in our house. Some of the time, I wasn't sure that I could, but I did my baby boomer best.

Today, my role is different. On most days, I'm "Mom" or "Ma", if I'm lucky enough to be addressed at all. Occasionally the accusatory , dreaded "Motherrrrr!" assaults my ears. Like most baby boomers who chose to have children (and probably like many of those for whom the choice was a surprise), I must observe the fruits of my labors from afar. Innocent pleasures like stroking a silky head or reading a bedtime story are over. I now have little chance of "making everything right", and most often, am not even consulted, despite what I consider extraordinary expertise. As my children enter the adult world, I can only hope that the values, feelings, and skills I worked so hard to impart will make their lives a little easier. As a baby boomer, I find it frustrating to think that I can no longer mold their behaviors, lifestyles, loves, and limits. Moderation has never been my metier.

Recently, while ransacking the supermarket for fat-free, sugar-free foods filled with natural ingredients and artificial flavors, I heard a plaintive voice waft through the aisles. "Mommy? Mommy ..... MAAAHMEEE!". I looked around in horror. Where were they? Who had I misplaced? Suddenly, I remembered. Numbers One and Two were working and playing without supervision. I convinced myself that Number Three was surely in the library. The "baby" was probably shaving his sideburns while listening to the soothing tones of the "Beastie Boys".

Keep the lights on for those still shopping, but return the child protection restraints to the store. Mommy has left the building.


Written by Marcia Brown Rubinstien
September 20, 1998

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