Friends are visiting. We haven't seen them in years. The two husbands grew up in the same New York neighborhood. We wives became friends as young marrieds. Then they moved north to Vermont; we moved south and we would see them once a year when we headed for the Green Mountains for a summer vacation. Those annual two-family dinners and picnics became a marker of sorts--of how our children were growing up. We started when our kids were still in preschool and continued into the college years. It was a limited, once-a-year history, but a tracking of passages in the life of our families.
So it isn't surprising that on this visit we are talking about our kids and reveling in how all four of them--their two and our two--have turned out to be independent and productive. It's not a matter of bragging rights--it's more a catching up with some of the details on what our children have accomplished and are doing.
Our friends are very proud of their children--with good reason. Like our children, neither of their two daughters live close to home. One of them is currently living as far away as Madagascar. So it comes as something of a surprise when the mom tells me, with a little laugh, how when one of her daughters comes to visit mom and dad in the old homestead they hang out and occasionally, my friend suggests something--a little something about her daughter's clothes or hairdo or her children's play-together habits. Just a wee critique that slips out in the course of a long day. That's when, my friends tells me, her daughter tells her: "Mom, I run a household. I have two kids. I'm working. I'm an adult now. Back off."
She says it in a nice way, my friend tells me. And she tells me this story by way of saying how good she feels about having an independent and resourceful child. Isn't that what it's all about? Isn't that the message we want to convey to them--even if we slip from time to time and forget to "back off."