“Bite your tongue.”
That’s advice I’ve been taking to heart ever since our 26-year-old daughter Emma moved back home right before Christmas. Emma spent two years as a starving artist in Brooklyn after college and a temporary job in Russia—she loved living in New York City, except for the starving part. And the weather. So now our little fledgling has come home to roost.
Just as Brooklyn is the thing for young adults to do, so is boomeranging back.
For someone who spent as much time as I did mournfully anticipating the empty nest, then moping around once I actually had one, you’d think I’d rejoice at Emma’s return.
But it’s surprising how quickly you can fall in love with a clean house. Not to mention the husband you’ve neglected over the past couple of decades.
Just as Emma had grown fond of her independence, so had we. Now we’re all like not-quite-roommates who are trying hard not to engage in nagging and eye-rolling. (Guess which habit matches which generation!)
There’s nothing really wrong, exactly. Emma is sweet, and definitely more mature than when we packed her off for Adventures in Young Adulthood. She tells us that she was the one in her Brooklyn household who always turned off the lights and kept the place clean (I’d really hate to meet those other housemates).
But it’s true that she now leaves smaller debris trails than she used to. Emma also cooks dinner for us once a week, chips in for gas and groceries, has found work, and takes her art seriously. She seems to be following some inner plan, although what it is and on what time line the plan will unfold is anyone’s guess.
Still, having Emma back is a tough transition—for all of us. She misses coming and going as she pleases without parents wondering if she’s lying dead in a ditch somewhere. I miss turning off the radar on that particular nightmare. On a more mundane note, I also miss being able to get into the car knowing that NPR will come on instead of some horrible noise from a different preset. I miss dishes done on my timetable. I miss towels that hang neatly from the towel rack. I miss not feeling like a control freak who is constantly resisting the urge to nag. I miss my unbitten tongue.
In the meantime, I keep reminding myself how lucky we are to have a child we love and who loves us, and who feels secure in the knowledge that she has a home to come back to.
Two children, actually: Emma may soon have company. Her younger sister, Ally, has been living in Barcelona, but she, too, plans to move back at the end of the summer while she figures out what comes next.
I used to say (and even mean it!) whenever the girls visited for holidays, “There’s nothing I like more than having everyone here under the same roof again!”
Be careful what you wish for.
Anyone boomeranged back into your empty nest? How have you weathered the transition?