On Their Own—Sort of

The other morning, the Gnome and I were breakfasting at our favorite 24-hour restaurant chain. It’s the perfect place to pick up stories. It’s also a popular spot with the college crowd, partly because of its proximity to off-campus housing and its quick and reasonably priced fare.

On this particular morning we found ourselves in a booth just behind a group of college-age young men, five of them crammed around a table. We couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their spirited conversation. Nearly every sentence began with something like, “One time my dad . . . ,” or “When my dad and I . . . ,” or “My dad told me . . . ,” and so on. I didn’t hear these comments as some sort of my-dad’s-stronger-than-your-dad schoolyard oneupmanship, but more of a this-is-my-experience kind of sharing among peers.

After breakfast, we ran an errand at the nearby big box store, another popular hangout with the college crowd. Walking to the store from the parking lot, we overheard another pair of student types. This time it was, “My mom . . .”.

I was utterly fascinated. Not so much by the stories themselves as by their underlying significance. Here are all these kids, off on their own for probably the first time. Semi-independent. Feeling their oats. Maybe sowing a few wild ones, too. But what’s the nexus of their conversations? Their parents. They are still tethered. Their denials may be vociferous, especially to said parents, but the bond remains strong. I’m betting the young folks we overheard didn’t realize how parent-centered their conversations were.

Meanwhile, I imagine, the parents may have been mourning the loss of their fledglings. Or maybe they were feeling their own oats for the first time after a couple of decades of child-rearing. I’m almost certain, though, that they had no idea their children were putting them front and center in their relationships with their peers. In the parents’ wildest dreams, they probably never pictured their kids spending their early days of freedom sharing a piece of maternal advice or reminiscing with their friends about a fishing trip with Dad. Talking about watching maple syrup production with their folks.Retelling Mom’s stories of her own college years. Whatever.To moms and dads everywhere, know that your influence is strong. If you’re the parent of a newly-minted adult, don’t imagine for a minute that you’re not still an almost constant traveler in your son’s or daughter’s mind. Your kids may forget to call, but they are thinking of you. They are talking about you (hopefully in a good way). They are remembering your lessons. You’re still important to them, central to their lives.

And if you’re a grown child of parents who are still living, maybe you’d like to call and give them a verbal hug right about now. It’ll mean a lot. More than you can imagine—at least until you become the parent of a grown child yourself.