Orphan’s Club

School starts this week for many and very soon for most.

The parents of our kids’ friends become some of our friends. A gang of us got together here in North Puffin after all of our kids abandoned us for the bright lights of school and work to the loneliness of old age. We had the usual potluck suppers and camaraderie as well as canoe trips and concert nights and bank robberies.

So how did you feel when your youngest left the nest for college or wherever, especially if this was hundreds of miles away? another friend wondered on Facebook.

The answers varied from, “My youngest may never leave” to pride in “his readiness and enthusiasm to go” to a coast-to-coast flight “with him to help him get stuff to his dorm” to “I’ve already got TWO of my kids this > < close to being able to support me when I suddenly appear at their front doors with a suitcase.”

And, of course, boomerang kids have long made headlines as the once thundering and now sour economy had no room for them at the Inn.

My aunt moved six times to follow her elder daughter, my cousin, around the country including two sojourns when they all owned houses in South Puffin. That cousin now lives with her father.

My own parents moved in with my dad’s in-laws. My son moved in with his in-laws. Pragmatism drove both moves.

My mother’s mother died in 1953 leaving my maternal grandfather alone in the ancestral farmhouse. It was an easy fit to absorb a couple more generations, good for my grandfather who couldn’t have kept the place up alone and for my parents who also didn’t have the resources or time to manage the house and barns and lawn and gardens and fields.

As an only child, I almost never had a “baby sitter” and was almost never alone.

My son’s story is more modern. He married and moved in with his in-laws on the same day. It was meant to be temporary because the in-laws had a small house and the kids really wanted to be on their own. They were married, though, and needed to live somewhere. Inertia set in. Nearly two decades and a couple of grandkids later, when that house went on the market, the kids bought their own first house.

I wonder if all involved would have done better on their own?

My dad didn’t need to “make the mortgage” or even be terribly responsible for maintaining a household. Sure, he contributed to the costs and he mowed the lawn and did the normal homey chores but he fretted more over whether wood rot was chewing up the cabin on the boat than whether asphalt rot was chewing up the shingles on the homestead. Likewise, my son didn’t need to make the mortgage or even be terribly responsible for maintaining his household. Sure, he contributed to the costs and he mowed the lawn and did the normal homey chores but he fretted more over whether Vermont road fertilizer was chewing up the floors of his van than whether Vermont rust was chewing up the tin roof on the homestead.

Kids leaving the nest. Taking responsibility. Do the choices we make now to insulate our kids from life make it harder for them to live?

3 thoughts on “Orphan’s Club

  1. As an only child, I was somewhat independent, and due to living in large cities pretty savvy about dealing with “stuff,” though there were some areas (finances) in which I lacked a lot of smarts. My girls are incredibly mature and independent, partly because I encouraged this and partly due to circumstances. They aren’t like other students their ages. It’s good, especially in today’s world, where you just can’t count on anyone else (not that you ever really should have, but some of us had the illusion). Anyway. Empty nest here. At least until winter break. Feels weird. :)

  2. My daughters have both been gone from the nest for years, and I’ve had my own life for so long, that it would be weird for all concerned if one or both were to come home. The older one has lived in the Denver area for about 15 years, married, divorced, now engaged, always gainfully employed. The younger has been out of the nest for almost 7 years, gainfully employed and self-supporting, though sometimes needing a little help here and there. She works 3 blocks away from here, though, and lives about 8 miles away, so we see her fairly often, though in small doses.

    I don’t remember any empty-nest angst when they went, unlike a couple of my friends, who fell apart when the chicks flew the nest. The younger one was so busy with school and activities and work that, while she was still here, she wasn’t really HERE all that much. And when she moved out to share a house with a group of her friends during the latter months of her senior year, they only lived about 10 blocks away and we still saw her all the time anyway.

    The nice thing, though, is that now that the girls are on their own, they’ve become our FRIENDS, not just our kids. The younger one is a very good cook, and she often pops in on her way to work, to drop off leftovers for me (her father is a picky eater and he’s not here much of the time anyway, so her culinary experiments are more my thing). And I’m often just thankful to have gotten them to adulthood without either ending up in jail, a cult, psychotherapy, a mental health ward, chemical addiction treatment, missing, or dead.

    Life is not bad.

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