DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am happy that our 21-year-old son still lives with us. He is our only child, and his father and I are not eager to be empty-nesters at this point. We enjoy his company.
He is an extremely hard worker, putting in long hours running a division of the family business, and he leaves for work around 4:30 a.m. As his neatnik mother, I make his bed for him most days (though he DOES know how). When he arrives home, it's neat and tidy.
Miss Manners, my issue is with his girlfriend, who spends a few nights here each week. I like her, and as they are both adults, I am OK with this arrangement.
I know that when she arrives, the bed is made nicely. However, when they leave together in the morning, the bed is either left unmade or haphazardly thrown together. Also, her empty or half-empty beverage containers are left on the dresser.
I have occasionally given them both a friendly reminder about making the bed. As she is a guest, is it unreasonable that I should expect her to make up the bed as it was? At least she could suggest to my son that they do so together. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned. Are my expectations reasonable? Is there a gracious way for me to let my feelings be known?
GENTLE READER: Have you tried just asking them to shut the door after themselves?
As more adult children continue to live with their parents, confusion has naturally arisen over the etiquette. Your son is not a guest, but neither is he a child. His girlfriend's presence increases the confusion.
Miss Manners is gently indifferent to whether or not you continue to make your son's bed, but is clear on some points:
First, an adult child is expected to exercise the empathy and judgment of the former, not the latter. That means your son should be expressing occasional gratitude if you make his bed -- or getting your assent that, as it is his room, it is his decision to leave it unmade -- and doing what he can to be helpful around the house.
Second, the girlfriend is a long-term guest, which means that she, too, should offer to help out. The way to establish an understanding is to discuss your mutual expectations and obligations with your son, leaving him with the job of telling her.