Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Boomerang Boy, a Civic Soapbox Essay by Bobbi Snow

This year my twenty-four year old son came home to live with me. He finished college, lived with friends in a house, completed several rites of passage and then moved home. At first, there was something compelling about having some more time with this child I adore since I believed there were so many lessons I failed to teach him. Would this be my opportunity to make up for all the things I wished I had done earlier? Maybe he would learn to fold wash right from the dryer. Cook something healthy that took longer to cook than to eat. That would be nice. Perhaps he could learn to write a decent thank you note.

As time goes on, I realize we are just mother and son in real time. No going back to redo anything. Habits are set and, in fact, are even more pronounced when he slips into his old bedroom and old patterns. If I thought I ever had impact or control over his behavior, I was delusional anyway. It is clearer to me now that my son is his own person, on his own journey, and just happens to be my roommate. It is safe and comforting for him here. We have set up a routine of daily life as if he were a young dependent. But he is not so young. I did not mean to set this up; it just emerged.

I am an in-charge type of person and I took charge. I cook all the dinners. I feed his cats. I keep the calendar and assure we are responsible about appointments. I clean the house and make sure he helps by giving him his to-do list. I ask two or three times for the recycling bins to be brought back in without showing impatience or stress. This routine is just like when he was ten years old

I have always loved being Jake’s mother. I still do. But when is a good time for him to be more independent? According to the last census, 56 percent of men age 18 to 24 and 48 percent of women live with their parents. Certainly I never would have dreamed of moving in with my parents after college. I never would have expected any financial support or wanted any guidance, but then my parents did not know who I was. I kept myself hidden, had a superficial --but loving-- relationship of respect and distance. I took care of myself. In contrast, I know so much about my son Jake. My friends and relatives today know so much about their kids. We are in a different kind of culture than the one I am familiar with.
We are on speedial with our kids. They come to us for everything. Of course they want to live at home. We have worked hard to make a home that works for them. I see this glorious connection to our sons and daughters and wonder how they will ever become independent of us. How will they maneuver through the tough challenges of life outside the warm confines of the home? Are we coddling them into a connection of collusion that stunts their growth? Are they prepared to face the realities of the big world out there when we are defining the realities for them daily?

On this Mother’s Day I will celebrate how lucky I am to be Jake’s mother and will seriously consider whether I should propose that he and we might be better off if he had roommates closer to his own age. I am not sure how the conversation will go or if Jake will take me up on my suggestion but I do know I will reassure my “boomerang child” that he can stay as long as he needs to.

  --- Bobbi Snow is the co-founder of the Community Public Charter School in Albemarle County


  1. Unlike most children today, they are genuinely needed at home. Through their chores and their handling of responsibilities around the house, they contribute to the family's welfare.

  2. Thank for the good topic,Thanks for your sharing.