The First One to Leave the Nest

On Friday, our 20-year-old son, Ethan, left the house for about half an hour and when he came back his face was aglow. He had gone to look at a house to rent with his friends, and apparently the place checked out and the timing fell into place for his buddies to all move in. He was so happy when he told us he was moving out the next day.

He has wanted to move out on his own for a while. The open floor plan of our house puts a crimp in his social life. Ethan is right that there’s no way he could invite anyone ““ male or female ““ to come over and watch a movie on our one-and-only TV and not have them right smack in the middle of his parents, two younger sisters, a German Shepherd, three cats”¦and our home-based business that we operate out of what used to be the dining room. Doesn’t that sound like a fun date, bring a girl to your parents’ house and their work place all at the same time? That’s just way too much parental overload for a young guy.

But I think even more importantly, moving out for Ethan means self-respect. Until he makes the transition out of the area to finish his college education at a four-year school, living on his own makes a statement that he is independent and self-sufficient. He doesn’t want to be like the kids he tells me about who talk about having responsibility, yet they actually are still totally dependent on mom and dad for room, board, and spending money.

The practical side of me would have liked to see him continue living at home and save his money for when he goes away to college next year. However, I’ve had to come to grips with the fact that what I want doesn’t really matter. What is important is the way he feels about himself right now.

The house he’s moving into resembles the fraternity houses that I remember from my college days except Ethan’s place doesn’t smell like stale beer. However, this place has seen some serious wear-and-tear; I’m sure hundreds of kids moving in and out have dragged their furniture across the wood floor and the kitchen probably hasn’t had a good scrubbing since the Hoover administration. So when I helped him move his mattress in on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think, “He’s trading freshly-shampooed wall-to-wall carpeting and mold-free grout for this?”

Yes, he is and he couldn’t be happier.

He knows the stuff I worry about so when he came back on Sunday to move his desk and computer, he made a point of telling me that his house-mate had gone out and bought Clorox and rubber gloves because they were going to clean the bathroom today. He also wanted me to know that this friend, who is somewhat older than he is, practices a “straight edge” lifestyle. Ethan had to explain to me that this movement came out of punk rock”¦”Don’t freak out yet, Mom””¦and means no sex, drugs, or alcohol. That”˜s music to my ears.

Do I miss him? Absolutely. But when I saw him at his new place, I saw him differently, much more as an individual and not just as my son.  He wants to figure out his place in life for himself and moving out on his own is the first step. I respect that and I’m proud of him.



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