I have often quipped that middle-aged women and their twenty-something year-old kids don't belong under the same roof, but the reality of this statement hit home this summer when our son moved back home temporarily.
The key word here is temporary but frankly, anything longer than a long weekend starts to wear thin, and when days turned into weeks, and then morphed into months, the tension in our relationship was directly proportional to the number of days our home was his home.
It all started innocently enough, but often that is the case, and before you know it you may have a tenant the likes of whom you would never rent to because there would not be a security deposit reasonable enough to cover the wear and tear to your home.
Now don't get me wrong, I love my son. I just didn't love him living under my roof for a stretch that became longer than we both anticipated. Two job orientations and a hunt for an affordable and dependable used car which could safely transport him to the West Coast (his desired location), delayed his departure three times.
So how do you handle this situation? The line between compassion and enabling sometimes is pretty thin. He had a couple of odd jobs, but twice had airplane reservations to the West Coast for job training sessions which were postponed or canceled, delaying his departure from early August to early October, making it difficult to commit to long term steady employment in our home town. So we set a date by which he needed to leave. (A poor choice on his part, he ended up moving up the date by a few days, leaving the goodbyes a bit more bittersweet than I would have liked, but this was truly a launch for him to what will hopefully be independence.)
As our last financial hurrah and graduation kudos we bought him a reliable but not nicer than anything we were driving used car. In fact, we would have preferred a model with a few more miles at a bit lower cost than what we settled for, but cash for clunkers had eliminated any remaining vehicles that would have qualified. How long this car lasts will be up to him and how faithful he is in routine maintenance and care. We carefully calculated how much gas for a cross-country trip would cost, a reasonable amount for food (think ramen noodles and the 99 cent menu at Burger King) and the first month's rent and security deposit.
Period. No more. End of story.
Now the rest is up to him.
We didn't hear from him for a couple of weeks. He didn't answer his phone when I called to wish him a happy birthday. Yet I still knew this was healthier than having him under our roof, hoagie wrappers strewn on the floor along with laundry and piles of objects, some identifiable — others not.
But then the phone did ring, and he called to announce he had landed a job and would start the following Monday.
He commented that he would only get paid once a month on this job. I told him what a great opportunity to budget that would be, praying silently that he had travel money left over, but assuming he did not. We chatted some more and I was thankful about how calm I felt with him being three thousand miles away rather than downstairs. It isn't easy, but it is best.
I could ask myself a thousand questions what happens if his landlord won't wait till he gets paid for the next month's rent? What happens if he can't buy food? What happens if he can't produce the two required forms of ID within the first few days at his new job What happens if he loses this job But I don't. Instead, I choose to reflect on the fact that as a young adult he needs to learn to stand on his own two feet, and perhaps the only way to allow that to happen is to pull the rug of financial support out from underneath him. I will always love him; I just won't bail him out financially any more.
Is this a familiar story to you Have you lived this journey What did or didn't work for you What if anything would you do differently I believe there are many parents eager to hear your thoughts.
About Kathy Pride
Kathy has four children, aged 9, 12, 24 and 26. Her second son was seduced by marijuana when he was 16. Kathy is now a published author of "Winning the Drug War at Home". She is also a childbirth educator and is writing a pregnancy and childbirth book. Kathy graduated from Brown University with a degree in Health and Society, and also has a BSN in Nursing.