The travel section of a newspaper isn't the most likely place to find a story on a major parental adjustment. Dominque Browning managed to turn a trip to Boulder into a tale of her first journey, as a newly minted empty nester, to her youngest son's new nest and her recognition that she was no longer the homemaker-mom but a guest in her son's home.
Her son moved from the east coast to Boulder. Boulder's a fun town to visit--I won't go into those details--but Browning had some thoughtful insights on the experience of realizing her youngest son was a grown up with a home of his own--a home that was wasn't hers and that was, moreover, half way across the country.
Her first point: "There is a moment of truth all parents must face, usually on a sofa bed. Children eventually make their own lives, entirely separate from ours, and we participate in them only by invitation. It is a wise mother, indeed, who remembers the lessons that once came out of her mouth about how to be a good house guest."
About that sofa bed. It was another wake-up call. As Browning and her son settle in for her first night at his apartment, he let's her know where she'll be sleeping. She won't, he tells her, "be taking my bedroom. That's the master bedroom. I am the master. I don't want to sleep out here. This is the guest room." That was, Browning writes, "the moment. That was when I realized the earthshaking reality of having traveled to see my child, only to become a guest in his home. He was not my child, but my host, a grown-up. I could feel the tectonic plates of power shifting and grinding between us. A volcano of protest sputtered out, and I agreed that the living room, er, guest room, was the perfect place for me."
It is a shocker of a moment. I remember the first year when uber son and his family booked and paid for the vacation condo and, when we arrived, instead of commandeering the master bedroom--as we did lo those many years when we booked and paid for the condo--we were relegated to an upstairs bedroom that one of our grandchildren vacated to accommodate us. Not that we had any complaint. (Or that they hadn't graciously offered to move out for the three nights we would be there. They did offer. We declined.] It was breathtaking recognition that the tectonic-plate had shifted--we were no longer the masters in charge with all the rights and privileges that come with that master's degree.
Browning's blog follows up her New York Times travel piece, sharing with her readers the bits and pieces from her article that were left on the cutting room floor. Here's one item that struck home and that underlies my Note to Self about good housekeeping tips. Browning, it would appear, managed to find subtle ways to share such tips with her son, Theo:
"Driving my rental car to Target for supplies, Theo discussed the challenges of living on his own. “I think the tub leaks when I shower.” We bought shower curtains. “Isn’t it hard to pour boiling water from the pot to a teacup without spilling most of it?” We bought a kettle. “I should have taken the vacuum cleaner you offered me from home.” We bought a broom."