Post-parenthood: When adult children move home, is it OK to be friends?
Facing a slow economy, three of our children moved back home after college. New unemployment figures show we're not alone. I worried: Are these roommates? What are the rules? Beyond the questions, something strange and wonderful was taking place. Mirth. And laughter.
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You start to worry. You ask your spouse, “Is this stint at home stunting their development? Are we too easy on them? Shouldn’t they at least be buying their own deodorant and feminine things? Where would you have rather lived when you were 25: with your parents or in prison? How are they going to learn how to plunge a toilet or change the batteries in a smoke alarm if I’m always doing that?”Skip to next paragraph
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Your spouse responds with information from an article she’s recently read about really smart parents – the ones who had their kids on waiting lists for pre-school in utero. They charge their kids rent when they move back in as adults and then give back a portion when they move out. You see the brilliance of this idea but remind yourself that this is only temporary.
Six months become a year. And you start to wonder, “What is the nature of temporary?” You ask, “Will I ever walk naked into the kitchen again to start the coffee?”
But something else has been taking place, immune to all these questions. Something strange and wonderful. There is laughter in the house. And mirth. Your Facebook page is being updated in ways that are hysterically funny and slightly inappropriate. You are privy to ridiculously silly YouTube videos.
Young people start showing up in your kitchen. And they’re much more interesting than they were when they hung out in your kitchen as high school students. Your wife and daughter are doing their nails together and giggling.
You might even find yourself going out to hear music at midnight, like I did the other night, with two of our kids.
You don’t know where you are. Is this post-parenthood? Are these roommates of yours adults or post-adolescents? What are the rules? Is it OK to be friends with these strange people who resemble your children?
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And you realize – as I did after my brilliant spouse pointed it out to me – that this is exactly what parenthood has always been: being on a road trip without a map or GPS. There’s no spare tire. And your phone is almost out of juice. The tank’s on E. The snacks are almost gone. But the kids are cracking up in the backseat. And you’re a lot happier than a responsible adult should be.
Jim Sollisch is creative director at Marcus Thomas Advertising.
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