IT STARTS like this: "Mom, why don't you try this color lipstick? It's a newer shade."
Or, "Mom, why don't we get you some new tennis shoes, you know? Those you got in 1967 are well . . . weird."
As a mother of grown children, have you had this happen yet -- the gradual role reversal? They have become your mother, and you have become the recalcitrant, sometimes errant, child.
It's fun, I promise, but you have to know it is done out of love, not retribution for the times you sent them to their room, or grounded them for a week, or yelled, "Well, I don't care if Debbie's parents let her do it!"
From a male offspring who remembers that you didn't give him the car for the school prom: "Mother, I think you and Daddy ought to start looking for condominiums. There are some beautiful ones, and you'd never have to shovel snow or mow again. We think you'd be a lot better off."
Or: "Mom, this '40s lamp should go, I will go halvies with you and we'll get a new one."
"But I like this one," I tell them.
"But it's not an antique."
"But I am, and I read to you kids by that lamp."
Notice that everyone 30 or under has incredible knowledge of high tech, even though they don't know where Easter Island is. As in this: "Mom, these are the newest in seat belts. Just sit still and when you close the door it will automatically wrap around PTC you. They're wonderful."
"Whoosh" and it did, almost choking me to death.
All this should tell you that you are older, but so are they, which makes them a little bossier than your average cruise director.
Remember, they are concerned that you don't get run over, fall off a train or go down a one-way street the wrong way, which is something you may notice as you get older that you can do, along with falling on ice some place where you can't sue the owners.
This protection racket starts when your own kids get loves, lives and mortgages of their own, and you become set in your ways, and so do they.
It's a beautiful time. Enjoy. It's a time to give in and let them parent you.
It's also pretty funny, you have to laugh. It simply has to do with time, worry wrinkles and your graying hair.
You must not get your feelings hurt when they tell you they don't like fire-engine red bath towels, or they don't eat mashed potatoes and gravy anymore.
These kids are smart. They hold down jobs, husbands and children; they know how to work computers, program a VCR, take care of a herb garden and you.
Do you remember when you used to say, "No, honey, no more ice cream until you eat your carrots."
Well, listen in now. You're at the mall. He says, "Mom, let's just have a salad," as you look lovingly at the boardwalk fries.
"I kind of had my heart set on a chocolate milkshake."
"What about yogurt? That has fewer calories," he says, and he knows he's a scientist.
I have a sudden flashback: It's the Boardwalk, 1953. Child is screaming for ice cream. We give him an orange slice.
Look, don't think they are getting even, they care. That's it in a nutshell.
Their tutelage is done with love and concern, a reflection of the love and concern you had for them when they lived with you: undying, maybe unreasonable, sometimes unbelievable.
I remember a day, it was a Saturday, she was 14: I asked, "What have you done to your hair, will it wash out?" She had gone from brown to yellow without my permission.
And now what do I hear? That they liked the color I had on my hair last year.