After only 38 years of child-raising, we suddenly find ourselves with an empty nest. These are uncharted waters, but I look forward to the adventure. I’m even happier for our youngest, Mark, who is having his own adventure in an apartment in Ukranian Village. Mark is 25, which seems to be the ideal age for a young man to move out.
Ninety percent of Americans leave their parents’ home by 27. When we had kids, I naively expected them to leave in their late teens. Our oldest, Kelly, stuck to this schedule when she moved to Vancouver at 18. However, like 50 percent of young people, she boomeranged back home.
This is not uncommon, but it wasn’t an option for me at that age. It’s ironic that my mother used to read us “The Death of the Hired Man” by Robert Frost, which contains the immortal line, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” When I tried to come home, my parents wouldn’t even let me stay the night.
However, we were fine with having Kelly back, and she later moved out for good when she got married. Our daughter, Nicole, left home at 23. It’s an interesting phenomenon that young women move out at a younger age than men. Our son, Joe, boomeranged a few times and Mark didn’t show any inclination to leave home until recently.
In the space of three weeks, he found an apartment on the North Side, bought new furniture and moved in. I was impressed by his independence. His new neighborhood also impressed me. It is filled with beautifully restored older buildings and modern new construction. It is populated by many young adults and is busy with joggers, bicyclists and dog walkers.
It has trendy restaurants, bars and breweries. It’s home to some hipsters, based on the number of berets I spotted. Mark’s one-bedroom apartment is a bit cramped but it’s a lot better than my first place. I moved in without any furniture and had to sit on the windowsills.
We’re going to miss Mark, of course. We were good TV buddies, watching sports, comedians and countless romantic comedies together. I enjoyed cooking for him and he appreciated the meals. We also enjoyed Mark’s favorite activity, eating out at Forest Park bars and restaurants. He was an ideal roommate in many ways.
We know from experience, though, that kids can’t really grow up until they’re on their own. When Kelly returned from Vancouver, she was no longer a kid and was more like an equal. The same is true with our other adult children. We all get along great and enjoy family get-togethers. During the pandemic, though, many families have had too much togetherness.
I really feel sorry for the young adults who were forced to stay home due to the lockdown. Especially the college students, who expected to be living in dorms or off-campus apartments. This was hard on their parents as well. Forced confinement has strained the relationships between many parents and children.
We’ll never stop being parents, but having no kids at home is an adjustment. It’s a quieter kind of life. There is less door slamming and refrigerator opening. Meals are smaller and there are fewer demands on our time. Our place now feels like another line in the Frost poem describing home: “I should have called it something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”
Thirty-eight years of cohabitating with kids is over but, thanks to our grandkids, we’re entering our 39th year of pushing kids on swings at the playground.