Mona Charen

"Our house is as quiet as a tomb." So said a friend who's at the same stage of life -- that is, a mother of three with only one child still living at home. Her youngest, unlike mine, is an introvert, but like my Ben, he is exceedingly busy in his last years of high school, thus leaving the house echoing with emptiness.

As a college sophomore, I visited my academic adviser with a problem. "I don't know what I'm going to do after graduation," I confessed. He cocked his head sideways. "Most people don't come to me with this until senior year." I've always liked to get a head start on fretting.

In just eight months, Ben will be leaving for college. It's a milestone for him, but it's also a transformative life event for me. For the first time in 23 years, I won't be organizing my time with children in mind. I won't be thinking about buying (and buying and buying) groceries that include sandwich ingredients for school lunches and the quantities of food teenaged boys consume, or consulting the school calendar to double-check on things Ben must attend to (though, admittedly, he's nearly always on top of things). Nor will I be emailing teachers about this or that. It won't just be a different schedule; it will feel like a different world.

Why did they have to become such engaging and winsome people? It wouldn't be so hard to see them go if they were dullards.

Jonathan, whom many readers have been kind enough to ask about over the years since he suffered a serious head injury at age 10, is now working at a job he loves. He's living semi-independently and has totally mastered the public transportation system. So committed is he to his work that he volunteered to go in on the Friday after Thanksgiving, though he'd been offered the day off. He loves to cook and bake, and we've agreed not to object to any hair color he chooses so long as he does nothing permanent to change his body. (No piercings!) He still takes some things in life hard -- the recent death of his girlfriend's dog was tough -- but he is achieving a reliable equilibrium that is hard-won and gratifying.

David, the child I ferried to lessons and rehearsals so many afternoons, is studying trumpet performance at college. We played our first duet at Thanksgiving (mom on cello). He was tactful in letting me know that my timing was off the first time through. "Let's try it again more slowly." It was profoundly touching when he phoned home in his first year to tell me that our game of "Guess the Composer" -- played dozens of times as we listened to the car radio -- had been good preparation for one of his conservatory listening classes.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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