Moving Out, Staying Put

Colin moved out last night. Or, at least, most of him did.

My 22-year-old son spent much of the day Sunday shuttling back-and-forth between our house and his new abode, toting clothes and books and electric guitars. I knew he was leaving for good when I saw him toting his computer out in a laundry basket. Where the computer is, Colin will follow.

But there’s quite a bit of him still at home, too. Colin might’ve taken his mattress, but his box spring is still here. He took most of his hangers, but oddly left most of his clothes. I saw he’d set up a litter box in his new casa. And yet we still have the cat.

I’m really, really hoping there’s still a litter box over at our house, too.

When some folks leave home, they leave home, only to return for the occasional Thanksgiving. I was a little like that. One summer between my college junior and senior year, I got married, packed up my stuff and moved—making a massive leap from my childhood and into my new “adult” life. By the time I was Colin’s age, I had a child of my own. His name was, of course, Colin.

I think those sorts of sharp breaks between childhood and adulthood are less common today. Often, it seems more like a taffy pull, where children and parents are slowly drawn apart over months or years or even longer. And even when the pull is complete, it has a way of reversing itself The twenty-somethings of today are sometimes called the Boomerang Generation—returning home because of an irksome economy or change in lifestyle or (I’d like to think) because they just miss their moms and dads.

And while I know there are folks who’d disagree with me, I think the taffy pull mode of parent-child separation is better. Healthier. After all, kids don’t wake up one day and poof! They’re mature, discerning adults. It’s a process. People  grow up in stages. Scientists say that even if you’re body’s fully mature by 16, your mind’s not until 25 or so. Youth may look grown up. They may even think they’re grown up. But sometimes, they could still use a parent in their lives.

And frankly, it’s easier on the parents, too. Or, at least, it’s easier on parents like me.

In a way, I’m excited that Colin’s moving out: Excited for him and this new chapter in his life. Excited for me, because I get my basement back. We’re both ready for this. Plus, it’s not like he’s really leaving. Colin remains in town, and we’ll see him often. Just not every day.

And yet, in some ways, the move feels too soon. In some ways, 22 years doesn’t feel like quite enough. Colin may be a man or on his way to becoming one. But he’s still my boy. He always will be.

Over the next week or so, Colin will take the rest of his stuff. The box spring. The clothes. The cat. Hopefully.

And yet, part of him will still be here. Part of him will never leave.