There’s been a lot of griping in the news these days about the slow-to-grow-up generation of 20-somethings who return home after being out in the world and sit, accumulating crumbs, in their parents’ living rooms.
In fact, the "boomerang generation" is moving back home at the highest rate since the 1950s – currently 21.6 percent of adults ages 25 to 34 according to a recent Pew Research report. Three-in-ten parents reported having a child who has moved home for economic reasons.
But I want to celebrate another kind of boomerang kid. This is one who is actually more of a hitchhiking kid than a returning child, since the home she’d normally return to is rented out to tenants, and her parents – my husband and I – have decamped to Beijing where we are having an adventure.
Joanna, 24, decided that it was all the more reason for her to have an adventure as well, so she quit her job (gulp), backpacked around Thailand and Cambodia with a friend (another gulp), volunteered at a home for street kids in Chang Mai, Thailand (gulp, gulp, gulp), and landed in Beijing, where we were surprised, mostly delighted, and maybe even a little taken aback to realize that we’d have a roommate.
Luckily, we had rented a three-bedroom apartment, so Joanna actually has her own little nest in one corner of the place, and we can use a third bedroom for a study plus guestroom.
The three of us have gone hiking on the Great Wall, had hysterical experiences in Chinese restaurants (bacteria dry pot, anyone?), made Thanksgiving dinner, Chinese new year cookies, and ravioli in the kitchen, and explored this vast city as a family. Just about every Wednesday, Joanna and I go out for manicures and chatter. The other day we found a dirt-cheap place where we got perfect manicures for 30 RMB (less than $5), talked about life, and watched Chinese shoppers watch the laowai (foreign) women get their nails done.
It’s true that there’s a certain adjustment that comes for a couple that had gotten used to the idea of the empty nest. For instance, there are times when Joanna will decide to have friends over and inadvertently make us feel a little bit like interlopers in our own place. Our other child, coincidentally, lives in Guangzhou in the south of China where he teaches conversational English to college students. There’s something nice about being in the same country but also giving him a couple hundred miles of breathing room. And having both kids boomerang at the same time would certainly feel a lot more crowded.
Joanna has decided to extend her China adventure for another year, but threatens to get her own place. I’m already steeling myself for that departure. The day I dropped her off for college I was sad but I knew she’d be home for Thanksgiving and then Christmas and spring break and the summer. For now, though, we revel in the inside jokes – did her father just order in Chinese fish that was too good for us? – and celebrate the spirit of the here and now.