When I went away to university at the age of eighteen, I effectively left home. Home was still there but I really only went back for visits. After university I had a job and that was that. I lived where my job was and went “home” to visit the family from time to time. My husband did the same. Most of our friends did the same. Our son did the same. Our daughter’s case was a bit different but she always did things her own way and, yes, she too left home, and when she came back she never planned on it being anything other than temporary. And it only even was temporary.
I thought about this when I read this item about a set of parents in New York taking their son to court and having a legal order organised to force him to leave home at the age of thirty.
And here is Guardian columnist Tim Dowling’s opinion of the whole matter.
Funnily enough I remember a case I read about last year or the year before of a French couple who were told by the court that they HAD to provide a home and economic support for their unemployed son, also thirty I think. The French system would not let them just wash their hands of him. Different countries clearly have different views about family responsibility.
Opinions vary and opinions change. Two friends of ours got married. This was years ago, He had no children. She had a couple: a daughter the same age as our son, perhaps about ten at the time, and a son a few years younger. Someone asked the new stepfather how he felt about suddenly becoming a parent. He declared himself unfazed by it; after all, as soon as they were eighteen they would no longer be his responsibility. He firmly believed children should get off their parents’ (and step-parents’) hands and out of their hair as soon as they were legally adult.
Funnily enough he changed his mind over the years and he became a major support to his stepchildren well into adulthood. When he died, too soon, a few years ago, his stepson, then aged thirty, wrote and read out at the funeral a poem to “the only real father I have known”.
My parents never threw me out. I always knew I could go back at any time. We never threw our children out. They keep coming back, but only to visit these days. When we consider selling our house and buying something smaller, our son reminds us that we need room for him and his family to come and stay from time to time. Our daughter and family live close enough to drop in at any time.
Occasionally I fantasise about getting somewhere big enough for all of us to live together, each of us with our own section of the big house. Rather like the Windsors all living in different wings of the castle.
It’s not going to happen. They have happily flown the nest and we are quite happy for them to have done so. But it’s nice to get everyone together for high days and holidays and pretend that we all live together.