When Your Adult Child Doesn’t Move Back Home

I know, I know. I should be proud that my grown child is on her own, and that we’re not having to write the new play book of living together as adults.

She graduated from college, came home for a few days, loaded up her car and moved to start her first ‘real’ job. It was a blur of packing, a blink of homecoming and leave-taking — and a baffling body blow to her dad and I as we stood waving in the driveway.

She is independent, capable, educated and employed. What’s not to love?

I should be relieved that I’m not dealing with boomerang generation issues. I’m not doing extra laundry, awaiting her return home after an evening out with friends, fixing meals that grow cold. My husband and I don’t face the task of calculating how much rent we should charge our darling daughter to move back into her girlhood room. We don’t have to deal with setting new ground rules — chores and boundaries, schedules and slacker recovery stratagem.

Trust me: I’ve heard the tribulations of friends whose children have come home to roost for the predictable interlude between graduation gown and grown-up pants. We all have.

We’ve heard it so much that it’s no longer a sign of development deficiency. Census reports tell us that a third of young people aged 18 to 34 live with their parents. It’s the new norm and natural order.

The trend may be failing to launch our kids, but it has launched a healthy market for advice books, family counseling and sitcoms. In fact, the phenomenon is so prevalent that I fully expected that would be our next step, and that empty nesting would be a gradual, get-used-to-the-idea process.

It didn’t happen that way for us.

And I find myself a bit wobbly without the training wheels of a more prolonged exit.

I don’t get to give her sage advice — all the nuggets I neglected to mention before we schlepped her off to college. How will she ever balance a checkbook, defrost a freezer or remember to write thank-you notes without me? (I’d recognize that groan anywhere — and from miles away. Well at least thank-you notes aren’t obsolete, are they Missy?)

I don’t get to weigh in on the adult choices she has before her — jobs, living arrangements, relationships, haircuts and ‘enough, already!’ with the piercings and body ink.

I don’t get to spend wide swathes of time with her, binging on Netflix fav’s, making spontaneous Target runs, taking long walks where we untangle dog leashes and the weightiest of world problems.

Most selfishly of all, I don’t get to wade gently into this new reality. I thought I could dip my toe in, test the water, then wrap a towel around us both and buy some extra time.

But she’s swan-dived off the high board. Good form, fully fledged — eyes forward, arms open.

The failure to launch, it seems, is on me.

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Lucinda Trew

Writer who believes in the power of language to change minds, change moods and change the world.