For all those Moms out there with grown children, take note: There is no expiration date on the milk carton of motherly advice. Or to put it another way (tweaking a line from Dr. Spock): "Trust yourself. They know less than you think they do.”
The way I see it, an umbilical cord is the ultimate "wireless connection” that enables us Moms to offer opinions and suggestions to our offspring long after they leave home. I myself have been known to weigh in on everything from finances and car repairs, to haircuts and movie rentals – and I intend to keep right on doing it every chance I get.
Take last Tuesday afternoon, for instance. I happened to be on the phone with my daughter when she casually mentioned that she had invited her husband's boss over for dinner on Saturday. Now I suppose there are moms who might have simply replied, "That's nice, dear,” but not me. The sentence was no sooner out of her mouth than I had planned her entire menu, provided a detailed shopping and to-do list (in count-down format,) told her exactly what to wear, how to set the table, and which music to play, as well as offering a wide range of stimulating, yet not-too-controversial topics for after-dinner conversation.
How do I do it? It's easy, once you know the basics. Of course, the first thing you have to do is stop clinging to the screwy notion that once your kids leave the nest you aren't supposed to keep meddling in their lives or go poking your nose in where it doesn't belong. Such an idea is absolutely ridiculous. I mean, think about it. Who gave birth to those kids? You did. Who painted their salt maps? Who scratched their chicken pox? Who wrote their term papers? That's right. You did. (And don't even try to deny that last one.) Let's face it, you're a whole lot smarter than your kids are, and you always will be. But don't just sit around waiting to be asked for your opinion because believe me, it'll never happen.
Next, when it comes to giving advice, you must never assume anything. Your son may be six feet tall and paying his own car insurance, but you're still dealing with the same kid who has a permanently chipped front tooth because you neglected to tell him he shouldn't try to balance on one foot while standing on a basketball.
Third, you should expect occasional setbacks. After all, even experts like me strike out now and then. I remember one particularly stinky piece of advice I gave my daughter when she was going off to college and was nervous about meeting the new girls in her dorm. "I have a great idea,” I told her confidently, "Why don't you learn to sew? If you did mending and alterations I'll bet you could really make a name for yourself in a hurry!” She'd have made a name for herself all right. "Hopelessly Pathetic Geek.” Fortunately, this is one time she chose to ignore me.
On another occasion my husband and I were visiting our son just after he moved into his first apartment with three other college sophomores. Surveying the toxic waste dump these boys called home, I ventured the suggestion, "Say, you guys ought to make a chore chart wheel and post it on the refrigerator door! That way everyone will know whose turn it is to take out the trash, or mop the floor, or line the stove burners.” Oddly enough, this suggestion was also ignored.
But enough about my mistakes. I'm here to talk about the right way to give advice, which brings me to the most important rule of all – be specific! When your son calls next week and mentions that he has an important job interview coming up, this is no time to utter some vague little comment like, "Well, Sweetheart, just be yourself and do the very best you can.” He can get better advice than that from a fortune cookie! For heaven's sake, you're his mother. It's your job to tell him, "I certainly hope you're not planning to wear a flashy tie. Employers hate flashy ties. Wear your nice dark green one, you know, the one that I gave you last Christmas. It'll be just perfect. Be sure to set two alarm clocks, just in case one fails. And whatever you do, don't eat garlic the night before!”
Mothers of America, take my advice before it's too late. Our grown children may be too proud to admit it, but they need us now more than ever. I say it's time to speak up! I mean, really. What are you waiting for? A formal invitation?