Mona Charen

He's launched. Our talks are snatched now when he's home for all-too-brief vacations or very occasionally by phone. His bedroom, which we must de-clutter sometime soon, is like a memorial to childhood. Beanie Babies, so beloved a decade or more ago, stand sentry on a top shelf. The books he devoured -- the "Redwall" series by Brian Jacques, Terry Pratchett's works, the "Flashman" series by George MacDonald Fraser -- are faded reminders of a bygone era, alongside more recent additions like discarded trumpet mouthpieces, stacks of dog-eared sheet music and the letters of Giuseppi Verdi.

Ben still lives here, but I already see him in fast-forward. No longer do I listen for his cheerful whistle as he reaches the front door after school. He's busy nearly every day with some club, rehearsal or activity. He's often gone on weekends, too -- traveling with the Model U.N. (He assures me it's far superior to its namesake.)

He was born with a sunny disposition and enhanced it with an insatiable curiosity, warm sympathy and quick wit. It's been such deep pleasure to share with him my enthusiasms, from the trivial to the profound -- and to observe and relish his -- from music to Russian to politics. He loves the world, and the world reciprocates.

Women are so often exhorted these days to seek "empowerment" of one kind or another. Power is fine, I suppose, but is it as deeply satisfying as giving love and support?

I don't need to consult an adviser about what comes next. I'll keep busier with work and spend more time with colleagues after Ben goes off to college. There will even be upsides -- my husband and I can eat mushrooms as often as we like. But the bittersweet truth cannot be denied: Such fine young men as we've raised leave a huge chasm when they depart.

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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