DEAR AMY: After reading so many parents' questions about adult children returning to the nest, I thought I'd weigh in — as a "frequent flyer." While I generally agree with the advice you give to parents, I wanted to add another voice. My parents have been very generous over the years, helping me to save money or letting me stay with them between major moves. Recently, I was home during the pandemic and it truly made things so much better for me, but let me say, it is hard to be an adult at home. Try as I might, as soon as my head hits the pillow in my childhood bedroom, it's like I'm 16 again. It's hard to treat my parents like roommates, and to see myself as an adult. Talking with my friends who've also lived at home, we frequently laugh about the immature arguments we get into with our parents and say, "We don't have these problems with roommates." Sometimes, it's hard to shake off old habits. This includes parents who keep treating us like teenagers. Last Saturday, after I had worked a late shift, my dad banged on my door and told me I was sleeping the day away! Sometimes we feel shame around coming home, as if we've failed our grown-up life. Sometimes it's hard for parents to accept new coping mechanisms we've developed in adulthood (yes, sometimes I do want an afternoon beer!). It's hard to act like an adult around your parents and it's hard for parents to treat us like adults. Apologizing frequently (and humor) helps. And if parents find themselves saying, "It's my house and my rules," they shouldn't be surprised if a teenage tantrum follows. I am grateful that my parents have let us all keep trying.
A Frequent Flyer
DEAR FREQUENT FLYER: Yes, it can be rewarding and frustrating — on both sides and in equal measure — when a "frequent flyer" repeatedly comes home to roost. You have described the weird time-travel teenage transformation that occurs when you sleep in your childhood bedroom (I remember it well from my own visits home).
However, you seem to equate your parents with roommates. Your parents aren't your roommates. When you have a roommate, you two are sharing the housing expense. You are peers, on equal footing. When you bounce back home to save money, you are a non-rent-paying beloved child who is accepting your parents' generosity.
You sound like a loving, lovely, perceptive person. Your parents seem to have raised you well. But they are your parents, and — teenage tantrums and all — it will be ever-thus.
DEAR AMY: A dear friend is turning 80 next year. The invitations for his big 75th birthday celebration requested no gifts, saying "Your presence will be your present." But at the event, he showily opened gifts that had been brought anyway, pointing out and thanking the gift-givers — much to the embarrassment of those who respected the "no gifts" request. What do we do if the situation repeats itself for his next party? Should I mention to his wife how uncomfortable this display made us feel?
DEAR RED-FACED: I agree with you that your friend should have opened his "no gifts" gifts (and expressed his gratitude) privately, but it's his party.
You should respect his "no gifts" wishes this year, anticipate the possibility that he will give a repeat performance, and just roll with it. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, enjoy an extra piece of cake, and nod politely.
DEAR AMY: We had a similar situation as "No Peace," with a 26-year-old son who lived at home and did not contribute to the household and showed no inclination to ever live an adult life. As a stepmother, I wanted my husband to start charging his son rent to at least cover our expenses. He was not comfortable with that, or with asking him to move out, and because of the increasing tension we finally sought out a counselor. She had a brilliant suggestion: Charge him rent, but put it in a nest egg account to give to him for when he finally did move out. Well, the nest egg never got very big because within six weeks he had found a better job and a place to live. He is now married with three children, and is thankful that we gave him the push that he needed to move forward with his life.
DEAR WIN-WIN: The answer is to make expectations reasonable, clear, and consequential.