It was another cold winter Wednesday night around 7 p.m. I was just finishing up dinner when my cell phone rang.
“Hi Mom,” the voice on the other end said. “What are you up to?”
“Hi Jesse,” I said. “How are you?”
“Great!” he answered.
I waited for the explanation of what he needed, what he lost, how much money it was going to cost me or what class he decided not to attend that day.
I held my breath, looked out the window, took a large sip of wine—waiting for the “I need/lost” clause. But this time, my son just called me to say hello. To see how his Mom was doing, what was new in her life. Could it be true? Could my 19-year-old boy be calling just for that one reason alone with nothing up his sleeve? Could he be—I swallowed hard—maturing?
Our son is finishing his second year of college in Rhode Island. For the first 18 months, most communication was by text. We missed him terribly and wanted to hear his voice—the house was quiet without him making his usual noises and messes—but using text as communication worked for all of us in our busy lives. It was quick, painless and could be given and received at anytime. We needed to know if he was safe, if he got to class, if he was adjusting; we needed to know if we could stop worrying.
For the most part, the only phone calls that transpired were those of panic or dread. Those emotions were mostly coming from us, the parents. The conversation usually started and ended something like this:
“Mom, I have something to tell you. I lost my wallet/can’t find my car keys/broke my nose [yes, that was a real one]/I am out of laundry detergent/coffee/food/toilet paper/cleaning products—can you put some money in my account? And I need money for laundry—can you put money in that account too? My suitemates all have the flu and nobody has cleaned the bathroom in weeks. And that class that I was supposed to switch into, it’s closed and drop/add was yesterday. And there is a smell in our room that we cannot identify. Oh, and Mom—I need a suit, tie and shoes by tomorrow.”
But this time, on this mid-week call, Jesse seemed to be sincerely interested in what I did that day. He asked about my writing, how the dogs were doing with all the snow, about his Dad and his long commute and even how sister was doing in school. It was as if I was speaking to a friend. A dear friend who I really liked—a good guy, a smart, respectful, honest man. One who could see beyond his own needs and ask about the needs of others. (Much like his Dad.)
Parents of adult children often tell me that this phenomenon happens, that around this age our children turn into pretty cool people. People we can be proud of, that we can hang with. “Almost adults” that we can talk to with our voices and not just our thumbs.
Could it be that all those years of parenting paid off? Is this once shy little boy—who for the first few months of pre-school sat on a chair by the door and didn’t move or talk to any classmates—becoming a caring man?
I still hold my breath when Jesse calls not knowing what he will say—but now I am beginning to believe that he is joining the human race. The teenage years will be soon gone and we will be left with a grown man that we can be proud of and that we are delighted to speak with whenever he calls.
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