My College:
Family Life

Wanted: Consultant Only

Lisa Samalonis

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Parenting is a balancing act with twentysomethings.

“Do you think you can come shopping with me tomorrow morning at 11?” he asked.

“Like in the middle of my workday?” I replied.

Even though the event had been on his calendar for a few weeks, my 21-year-old son hadn’t made time to shop for much-needed new dress clothes.

“It’s the only time I can go and, well, if you can, I just really want to get your opinion?”

I snapped my head around to look at him. Did I hear that correctly? He wanted my opinion. It had been months…okay, years since he asked my advice and when I try to be helpful and offer my perspective on things, well, it is not warmly received. In fact, I've learned if I suggest something he will most likely do the opposite. So, I have been keeping mum on all things recently.

“I can go on my lunch hour,” I said.

The event is “dressy.” At first, he considered just pants, a shirt and a tie but we ended up shopping for a suit on sale. This is only the second suit he's purchased besides renting a few tuxes for prom. He is a larger size now since he stopped cross country running and spends more time working out at the gym.

We entered the store and zeroed in on the suit pants and jackets in various styles, colors and fabrics hanging separately on the rack. No sales associates roamed the floor. He turned to me with a look that said, “I have no idea.”

After he pointed to a few styles, I began shuffling through the racks. I weaved through the store like a mom on a mission selecting colors and fabrics, guesstimating sizes, throwing pants, suit jackets and shirts over my arm.

“We can start with this these and go from there,” I said. He nodded with a grimace. Ever since he was a small boy, he has never had patience for trying on clothes.

The first pair of pants he slipped on were short, the jacket too small in the sleeves and too tight across the shoulders. I zipped back and forth from the sales floor to the dressing room, bringing items in and out.

The event was the next day, so we had to find the correct size suit with no alterations that looked the best.

“You could have planned to shop a little earlier,” I said.

A wide smile and a shrug. “I'm a busy guy, what can I say?”

Then he slipped on the black suit jacket over the crisp white shirt. We'd found matching black pants in the material he preferred. He grinned as he looked at himself in the mirror and then at me.

Tears pricked the corner of my eyes. He looked so handsome.

Where did my baby go?

I sniffed.

“Ma,” he said, shaking his head.

I sniffled a bit more.

“Oh, come on, Ma.” He brought me in for a hug with his beefy bicep. His deep laugh echoed through the dressing room.

My baby.

That settled it. He must buy the ensemble that made Mom cry. We headed to the register.

This year has been a tumultuous one in the world, and also in our home. My son is 21, he lives at home and commutes to a local university. He works and trains at a nearby gym. He's making his own way in the world, with his own plans, schedule and ideas, yet he still lives at home with mom.

Recently, I read that as our children age into adulthood our job as parents transitions from that of protector, teacher and disciplinarian to cheerleader and consultant. I try to be respectful of that idea although it's not always easy, and I am not always successful.

“Thanks for helping me with all that stuff,” he said as we walked to the car 45 minutes later. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Those magic words reached my ears and my heart, and I was grateful that my opinion and experience still matter, even if just for a speedy fashion consultation.

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Lisa Samalonis is a health writer and essayist from New Jersey. She is at work on a memoir about life as a single parent with her two sons. Lisa is also a medical editor and adjunct journalism instructor at Rowan University. Her work has appeared in professional and consumer publications, including Shape, Grown & Flown,, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and MetroKids as well as in the anthology, Mourning Sickness (OmniArts). Find her on Instagram and Twitter.
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