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The right size - Martha Carr

My son, Louie, who is 22 years old, has learned how to cook. The DNA scramble for knowing your way around the kitchen has to be a throwback by a few generations.

The Carr women are very talented at a lot of things, but cooking is not generally one of them. The Carr men didn't tend to ever enter the kitchen.

Louie has not only learned to cook a cheap roast using a Sprite as tenderizer, he's come up with a pretty good life-plan and is budgeting his money. The other day, he even called just to say hello to me, his mother. There was a long pause on the phone while I tried to regain my senses.

It is a wondrous thing to behold when offspring start to bloom and look like they get one of those fundamental principles of life. That's the one where we finally grow up and realize that life will always keep coming at us, but we don't need to take it so personally. Knowing that rule has helped me to put aside the drama and come up with plan B's, just in case.

That means it takes me moments or hours instead of days or weeks to regroup when life hiccups, and get back to doing the next right thing in front of me.

But I found out that as a parent I may not have been as good at translating that message to someone I wanted to protect from everything, which is an enormous mistake. Not letting Louie fall had the opposite effect of making him think there were things to fear that couldn't be overcome.

Fortunately, I caught on and held my breath, sat on my hands and kept repeating to him that, boy, that looked tough, I'll bet he could handle it. Just to be fair, I should mention that I also kept telling him that God has his back, and Louie was only in charge of the next step, not the whole plan.

It's been amazing to watch the results and see him seek out appropriate advice, and then take action without a sense of entitlement that he shouldn't have problems in the first place. He is working out the hairballs of life that get thrown at all of us, and is generally happy.

Frankly, I don't think I can take that much credit anyway for how well Louie is cruising along right now, but I can at least admire that I don't appear to have tripped him up that much, either. I don't really care who gets the credit because, as a parent who wanted to do a good job, I'm over the moon that Louie has found out that problems have solutions.

It's not that I didn't do a lot of things right, because I did, but it's more that I knew even when I was throwing a fabulous birthday party on a budget, or helped him finish the diorama on time, I was in over my head. The best I could do was keep telling him I believed in him and I loved him, and hope that counted for something.

There is one surefire way to learn about a sense of powerlessness that will go on for an entire lifetime. It requires only two things. The first is to become a parent and the second is to want to do the job of parenting well.

If someone truly desires to be a good parent, then regardless of economic background, level of education or region of the country, they will also discover large doses of humility on an ongoing basis, particularly when our beloved child becomes a teenager and starts to list our transgressions for us.

However, lately there's been an added element, which seems to have added something important to the mix. As I have stepped back and let Louie have a go at his own life, I also made a point of really enjoying my world by making friends, finding ways to be of service and being happy with what I have, rather than always talking about what I wish I had.

I started to fit into my own life and feel comfortable in it, and my gratitude spread till I was able to see and appreciate what is, including Louie, rather than yapping incessantly about what might be. More adventures to follow.

Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail Martha at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.