I just returned from a very quick 3 day trip to Corvallis to attend Jasper’s honors thesis defense. I brought my mother with me, we drove her little car, and we picked Emerald up at the Portland airport along the way. Jasper passed his defense with only minor revisions, and technically hasn’t graduated yet, but it is just a matter of time. This summer he leaves for a 12 month intensive to get his masters in Education and a teaching certificate. Emerald has already returned to the river for the summer, and I joined her for her first commercial trip down the Owyhee. She spent the winter serving sushi and ice cream, but also freelance writing and updating social media for pay. While the kids have both been out of the house for a few years, this next year marks the transition to true adulthood. I had a lot of time to think during those many hours of driving this last month. What does the “transition to adulthood” really look like? What did it mean to me? What did it mean to my mother, her mother? What will it mean for my children?
Emerald, my mom and I all shared a hotel room for a couple of nights. We did some long driving together. I enjoyed listening to my mom relate her stories of her emerging adulthood to Emerald. Though I had heard the stories before, I always glean a little something more from the narrative. My mom’s parents divorced in the 40’s. Her mother needed to earn a living, combined it with her passion for New York City, and spent most of her free time hunting down the next husband rather than being much of a mom. My mom was raised mostly by her grandmother, even returning to those grandparents when her mom remarried and she was unhappy. My mom went on to college and married my dad the day after graduation. It was what was expected. She did love him, and they had 3 kids. But my mom always worked, she pursued her passion for a higher education. When my parents divorced, she was able to take care of herself financially. Any relationships she formed after that were because she wanted to, not because she needed to. She passed those values on to her children. “Always be able to take care of yourself” was a message I heard loud and clear.
I was engaged to a man when I was in college. We made it most of the way through professional school and respective internships, and then I was abruptly dumped prior to my final 9 weeks. I lived with my mother through that (planned, as my final internship was in her geographical area) while I completed my studies and passed my boards. I worked for my dad as a roofer for a month to make enough money to get me and my little car to a free place to stay in Tahoe, and then I began to look for work. I was employed full time within a month, developed passions for mountain biking and telemark skiing, and within a few months had moved out of the free place to digs of my own. I decided that whole “wait for marriage” message I had absorbed in high school was for the birds, and enjoyed a series of flings, short term relationships, and a few longer ones. I was heart-broken again, and I broke some hearts. I met Jim during this time. He was one of the flings. I have friends from those days that will always be in my heart. I was taking care of myself.
So, now my kids are in the transition to adulthood. I go for days without the “mommy radar” going off, and often, I just take care of myself. Money that my grandma had due to a succession of marriages (something she advised me to do, that I ignored) passed on to my mom, which then passed on to my kids in the form of fully paid college. It has made it easier on my kids than many. Because of this, they have had the luxury of being able to meld passions with emerging livelihood. I love seeing Jim in their passions. Emerald is a truly elegant boater and skiier. Jasper is an ultra-focused athletic dancer with a desire to teach. They both relish time away from all media, and they both know how to play, talk, and cry. While they both value their family of origin, I see them developing deep relationships of their choosing, which they enter into with their whole hearts. They are taking care of themselves.
So, like many kids of today, they are still on the family health insurance and cell phone plans. The cars are registered in my name and they get boring things like car insurance for their birthdays. But they are not eating out of my refrigerator, sleeping in my spare room, nor am I the first one they call when they are lonely or broken hearted. What does this transition mean to them? I don’t know. You will have to ask them. They take care of themselves.