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The never-empty nest

Leave home and get your own dump

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We already have one living next door, and I'm afraid another is festering: a kid who grows up but doesn't leave home. Actually, our whole neighborhood is riddled with households sheltering offspring who've technically reached adulthood but still climb the stairs to their childhood bedrooms right before dawn. In our little cul-de-sac alone there are two such "lifers," with this third kid headed that way in a hurry.

He's a senior in high school, but judging by how much time he spends hanging with his many friends 24/7, I'm guessing that he isn't slaving over applications to the Ivy League. I'd been holding onto the slim hope that maybe he was at least bound for one of the "gut" branches of the state school system, but even that was dashed by his mother's recent admission over the fence.

"Alex is thinking of staying home for a year and taking classes at CPCC," she announced brightly like it was such exciting news, although I noticed a little quiver in her voice. My heart sank at this lame excuse for a plan because I've heard it before, including from her years ago regarding her older lug of a son. He's now pushing 23, still occupies his room with the wild-geese border, and never got around to taking course one at Central Piedmont.

From past experience I know the community college illusion is what parents present to the world when they've pretty much given up on Junior going away to school, but can't quite admit that he likely isn't college-bound at all, or at least not at the usual age. What they're really saying is: "My slacker kid is going to stay right here and basically do nothing for as long as he can get away with it. He might hold a menial job or two, but will quit as soon as he's bored, and live off his father and me into perpetuity. We may grow old and die with this useless shit-sack still under our roof."

Sometimes these lifers-in-training actually do make it to one of the more remote outposts of the state university, but soon rebound home when the academic demands of the equivalent of a mediocre high school prove too much to work around their already-hectic schedules of getting high and getting laid. Other times they luck into decent jobs, but even making money doesn't motivate them to leave home, maybe because it would mean doing without some of all the crap they consider necessary for existence.

The next thing you hear from apologetic moms when it's been years since their children graduated from high school and the punks are still rolling out shirtless to the front porch for their first smoke at noon is: "But it's just so expensive for kids to live on their own."

Duh, it always has been, but is especially so now -- especially since they and their parents assume they have to have decor from Crate and Barrel and a tight car, plus all the gizmos they glom onto like they're morphing into partial robots. It makes you wonder whatever happened to the time-honored tradition of slumming it in your first place, not to mention trying to avoid the stigma of being pathetic that used to attach to anyone who lived full-time at home past 18.

The neighbors' grown kids could live in trees for all I'd care, except for the fact that their hanging around impacts us. I'm afraid my son will get the idea that never leaving is the norm, instead of the conventional progression of high school-college-rathole-of-your-own, and decide to emulate it. Parents desperately need that beacon of their child's eventual departure to cast their mind's eye upon as they try to survive the savagery of teenhood.

Besides, there's a reason that colleges and those adults-only apartment complexes that used to be legal came about as separate social holding-pens for young adults: their age is one that's basically only fit to be around itself. The comings and goings of revving cars day and night, the jaw-vibrating music, the clouds of dope smoke and the beer vomit don't work themselves too well into the fabric of a suburban cul-de-sac where the true kids are still riding trikes.

To the beleaguered parents who claim they're helpless to uproot offspring grown big and burdensome, I present a solution that's basic but has the potential to be highly effective: simply don't permit your children to get laid under your roof. It's been astonishing to watch as neighbors' sons have obviously been allowed to have their girlfriends overnight from about 16 on. Kids' copulation just shouldn't be that convenient.

The urge to have sex has been the motivating force behind people leaving home for generations. Young adults can survive without the other perks of having their own place, but they gotta get "um some. Make them sneak around and catch poison ivy on their balls, and maybe they'll be a little more motivated to sign that apartment lease.

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