Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Keep The Room Empty- Kids Come Back

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on October 8, 2011.

Those of you “experienced parents” who believe things will get easier and simpler once your kids grow up and leave the family home - forget it. The situations change, the needs differ, but your kids can be like the swallows from Capistrano: They keep coming back.

That is merely an observation, and not a complaint. My wife and I have two sons and at various points in their lives they have moved out and then moved back in. Each time we welcomed them completely, and they know our home is always open to them. But that does not mean there aren’t adjustments to be made on both sides.

Our oldest has undertaken a career change and brought his family to live with us while they seek to get established in a new place closer to work. We love our terrific daughter-in-law dearly, and of course having our brilliant and handsome three-year-old grandson (did I mention his name is William?) stay with us is an absolute blessing. Our house is large, so there is plenty of room.

But moving in with your parents is something generally done out of necessity, not choice. As wonderful as we are (and we are truly wonderful – just ask us) we may not be the easiest people in the world to live with. Well, I’m pretty easy, but my wife can sometimes be difficult. You guys know how it is.

My son and I are a lot alike, so that makes things reasonably easy. But having two of us (three if you count young Will) with many of the same annoying habits can be a bit much for the two ladies of the house. And in this case, we are talking about two extremely strong-willed women who are used to getting their own way. Having to train both of us all over again can be quite a chore – never mind having to adjust to another adult woman in their household.

Having “guests” has necessitated some cleaning of our home and some rearranging of the rooms. This has highlighted one of the biggest differences between me and my beloved life partner. I like to throw stuff out. My wife likes to keep everything. This is a source of much debate and conflict, most of which I (naturally) find myself losing.

My trips to the trash are monitored more closely than the Iraqi nuclear program. My wife lives in constant fear I may be sneaking out some important artifact of our lives or something that could conceivably be of use to someone in some far corner of the globe. And truth be told – she has good reason to fear this. She has caught me on numerous occasions. She does not appreciate my kind of “cleaning”.

Our basement resembles a Salvation Army supply depot, with things strewn everywhere in a manner that makes sense to us but probably not to anyone else. A lot of it was left by our children when they moved out – then back in – then back out again. But we have generated the bulk of it, and must bear the responsibility for the clutter it has created.

While my oldest has no problem throwing things out, my youngest is much more like his mom in that regard. Though he and his wife live in Baltimore, much of his “stuff” still lives with us. We had to pack up a lot of his belongings as grandson Will is staying in his room, and my wife (on his behalf) guards his collection of personal goods as though it were the gold at Fort Knox.

We are dedicated to making sure that each bedroom our boys grew up in remains “their room” even in adulthood. When Nate does come home to visit and brings his beautiful doctor wife (and someday possibly a child) we want him to stay in the room that has always been his. It is as important to us as we believe it is to him.

So the lesson here is: Don’t think that empty bedroom will be housing a hot tub any time soon. Your kids tend to come back. And honestly, we wouldn’t want it any other way. At least on most days.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and proud husband, father and grandfather. You may ridicule him at

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