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Moving Back Into the Empty Nest

(Originally published 9/8/08)

This is a strange time of year for me. It’s the beginning of September, and for the first time in about 18 years, I am not going back to school. With my older sister already out of the house and my younger sister recently moving back to college, I am enduring a new experience in my life: living at home with my parents as a 22-year-old “only child”. While living at home certainly has its advantages over living by myself –like the luxury of using actual plates for my food instead of a frisbee –it still presents me and thousands of other recent college grads with a whole new set of challenges.

For the most part, my parents have granted me the freedom that a 22-year-old with the maturity of an 18-year-old deserves. There are times, however, where their parental instincts become overwhelming and they just can’t help themselves. It’s the little things that I notice, like when my mom walks by my room while wondering aloud whether or not I am getting a haircut anytime soon. Or like one time when I was awoken on a Saturday morning with a barrage of intense questions about my short and long-term goals. “Well,” I mumbled, “my short-term goal is to sleep for twenty more minutes, and my long-term goal is to sleep for two more hours.”

Just as my parents don’t understand many of my ramblings about technology and sports, I have difficultly interpreting some of their conversations. For instance, the other day I walked into the middle of this exchange:

“…I’m just concerned she’s never coming back. I heard them fighting a few weeks ago and after that she just took off and left.”

“I know! And he’s been acting strange ever since the twins were born. I bet it wasn’t easy for them, moving into a new home with the babies. I just hope that we didn’t do anything wrong. I would never forgive myself if she left because of us!”

Excited about this juicy gossip, I asked, “Which neighbors are you talking about?”

“We’re talking about the pair of white-throated sparrows that used to frequent our feeder.”

Since then, I’ve been kept up to date with the heart-wrenching chronicles of bird life in our backyard: Anger. Love. Betrayal. Regurgitation. It’s the soap-opera that keeps my parents captivated all season long, and it doesn’t take commercial breaks. It really isn’t easy living with people whose mood depends on whether or not there are squirrels on the feeder.

If you were to rank my relative importance on the Kester premises, I’m pretty sure I would rank slightly above the birds, but far behind our two dogs. I’m not jealous or anything, but I just don’t understand why I get less attention than two furry numbskulls who consistently confuse human legs with potential mates. I could come home from work with a promotion, but the topic that would dominate dinner conversation that night would be the fact that Rudy was “smart” enough to puke on his dog bed instead of our floor.

As anyone with siblings knows, sometimes your parents will mistakenly call you by your brother or sister’s name. You can’t blame parents for the occasional slip-up, as sometimes they have two, three, or even four names that they have to keep track of. It’s bad enough if my parents mix-up my name with my sisters’, but it’s even worse when they mix-up my name with one of my dogs’. I can’t tell you how embarrassing it is to have some friends over at my house and hear my mom yell to my dad, “When you get a chance, will you take Eric out back to poop?”

I could go on and on about other difficulties I face living at home, like how I get blamed for any technological issue in the house (“We never had any problems with the Internet when you were at school!”), but nature calls and I have to go beg my parents to let me outside.

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