Friday, August 7th, 2020

When Boomerangers Return to Empty Nest

By Deborah Kimmett on Sep 28 2011 • Filed under Mompreneurs at work

When Children Return to Empty Nest (Photo of bird's nest)If you love something, set it free; if it comes back, it’s probably an adult kid needing cash.

This year, my kids came back for a stopover. Some friends said I was asking for trouble by weakening my perimeters, but I was thinking of my retirement. When I get old, my kids will have to reciprocate and let me come stay with them. You may call that emotional blackmail, but I call it financial planning. With the current economy, I’m on the Freedom 55 plan; I’ll retire when my kids are fifty-five.

I wasn’t an empty nester without borders. I had stringent guidelines. They couldn’t go to the bathroom in the middle of doing the dishes — I had fallen for that one for ten years. There were to be no extracurricular activities in the bedroom, unless they brought someone home for Mama.

What’s the harm of having kids back at home? There was a time when it was customary for young people to live at home until they got married. Farmers. Italians. Cultures that knew enough not to kick kids to the curb, especially not when they were still of use to their parents. Back in the day, the role of adult kids was to make sure Mom and Dad would never have to be in the same room together. Talking about their kids’ latest stunts bonds a couple. Once they’re gone, what is there to chat about? Golf handicaps? The remains of their RRSPs? The latest episode of “Grey’s Anatomy”? That’s how my marriage ended. During the TV writers’ strike, the kids moved out and we were left in a room together pointing a remote at the TV with nothing to say.

People say they like having their space back, but in the old days, there was no space. People lived in three-room farmhouses and had to share a bed with four other people. With the current energy prices, that might not be such a bad idea — think of the money you’d save! Less than a century ago, they had less space and people turned out okay. Now we have 1.5 kids and 2,500 square feet of house and we feel crowded if the fruit of our loins is camped out in the rec room.

Many also argue that kids need to be independent, but we forget that they’ve been in daycare since two and had their own key to the house since they were five. We even cancelled Grade Thirteen so they could get through life faster. And just because they’re not under your roof, doesn’t mean they’re not asking for cash.

Now I know they can return for too long. My cousin Francine’s daughter boomeranged back pushing a baby carriage before she’d even reached legal drinking age. Francine has a kid with a kid in the basement and her aging mother living in the spare room. Poor Francine is on call 24/7, sandwiched between three generations of people who want her to wait on them. There are endless doctor’s appointments for knee replacements for her daughter. Apparently they gave out after too many childhood soccer games. The other night Francine was up until three in the morning giving dating advice to her mother, my Aunt Marjorie, who is 76, but apparently still has a lot of Romeos sniffing around in the seniors centre.

I had my two kids return under my roof for a very limited time. There was a definite shelf life to our reunion, but I found out what good people they had become. As twenty-somethings they were actually nice to me. In fact, I believe it’s far worse for teenagers to live at home. Kids should move out when they’re fourteen and come back when they’ve stopped sighing and saying “Whatever.”

When my kids moved out again, I realized I liked thinking of someone other than myself. I get weirder and weirder living on my own. I have started making small things into big deals. I could run a small country on the energy I am now putting into cooking and cleaning and my animals. At Christmas, I bought myself a pet, a dog named Gus. He’s a Shih Tzu I got from the pound and, because he had fleas, he was shaved in the back. He looks like Kurt Russell with a reverse mullet: party in the front and business in the back. I brag about him. I have 346 pictures of Gus — more than I took of the children. Every morning I tell him, “Go out to the kitchen and make Mama a cup of joe.” Yes, he sleeps with me but he isn’t allowed on the couch. It’s crazy; I used to leave my real kids with babysitters I’d just met, but with the dog I’m running background checks on the kennel to make sure they don’t have any priors.

At night I sometimes pretend he’s Lassie from that the old ’50s TV show. Lassie knew if people needed her help. Lassie would go and find them in the well. So I say to Gus, “Go get the kids. Tell them Mama needs them back home with her. Go, boy! I think one of them has fallen into $25,000 worth of student loan debt and needs his Power Rangers bedroom back.”

Gus is cute, but not that bright. He just stands there not staring at me, then walks around three times, gets up on the pillow and goes to sleep like he doesn’t understand a word I’m saying.

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