Failure to Launch

In our culture, kids grow up and move out. That’s not true in all cultures, rural Panama for example. At one point all of Gloria’s three sons were living at home, long past the time they might have moved out and been on their own. Now, only Luis and Lynette live there, with baby Axel. They will move a few feet away once their small home is finished. Gabriel and Fani live in their own home just on the other side of Gloria’s house. Eldest son Raoul lives in what we might call the family compound — all the modest houses around Gloria and Luis are filled with extended family. Gloria loves it. Her grandkids run in and out all day long with a small army of cousins. Her sons are nearby, if she needs their help with something. Her daughters-in-law have their own kitchens, and Gloria has hers. Peace reigns.

But here, kids move on to begin their lives. Sara and Matt did so appropriately, in fact sooner than Jerry and I expected. Sara came home for one summer after freshman year at Tufts. By sophomore year, she rented a storage place for her stuff in Boston and stayed there to work over the summer. Matt joined her at Tufts, pitched in with the cost of the storage unit, and didn’t come home summers at all.

An upstate New York couple had to go to court to get an order for their 30 year old son to move out. Michael Rotondo refused parental appeals that he get a job and get his own place, refused offers of money to help him do so, and finally refused several eviction letters. Finally, his exasperated parents took him to court, and won the court order compelling him to comply.  Apparently he plans to appeal.

Absent a medical or financial crisis, I can’t imagine having an indolent 30 year old son or daughter lolling around the house all the time. Nor can I imagine having to go to court to intervene. Now that a court order is in place, and the son is still resisting, what do they do — have him arrested?

The idea that kids move up and out is a cultural norm, not a biological one. Multiple adults can certainly negotiate a way to live under one roof if that’s what everyone wants. But in this case, everyone doesn’t. Michael’s aging parents want the rhythm of their day back. They want their space, absent him and his stuff. They want, I suspect, to focus on their own aging, not on the grown man lying around on the couch in the middle of the day.

I’m not sure what will make Michael get the point. Maybe he wants to get arrested, to trade one free roof over his head for another. I imagine his parents hope it doesn’t come to that.

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