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When a child comes home to roost

We work on trying to make sure that no one is truly ruling the roost.  (Provided photo — Diane Chase)

There are so many stages of raising a child. For most of their growth, they are completely dependent on their parents. It isn’t a power trip or exerting authority over these wee ones. Babies actually can’t survive without an adult. Yes, Yes, I’m sure you grew up with someone raised by wolves. (There is always one person in the crowd.) Humans are one of the only mammals, if not the only mammal, who can’t walk shortly after birth.

According to Scientific American, it has to do with evolution and a narrow pelvis. The highlights are as humans’ brain size increased by natural selection, the pelvis size shrank. Evolution’s solution is for the human brain to continue to develop outside the womb. Though an infant’s head compresses slightly while maneuvering the birth canal, a fully developed brain would not have the room to pass through, endangering both child and mother. Not that we have a choice, but no woman wants to birth a full-size adult head. The child-size brain hurts enough. So, with no other options, these babes are put into our arms and become our responsibility.

Children go from infant to toddler to juvenile to teen. Parents are still responsible for their offspring’s health and well-being. For most of us, parenting isn’t something turned on and off like a faucet. It requires patience and fortitude to continue to parent as each juvenile brain reaches maturity. It isn’t a habit we give up, like a New Year’s resolution.

Through this past year, many young adults struggled to maintain independence. They may have seen job opportunities dwindle, or they could no longer afford rent. Perhaps they were college-bound or had a dream job but watched both go fully remote, landing them back in their childhood room. It has been a challenge for everyone. This issue is always the same. What do we do when a young adult comes back home to roost?

When my son first came back from college, it took some (OK, a lot of) negotiation. I wasn’t naive enough to think he would go right back into his old routine. He was certainly willing to exert his independence, and I was willing to give him extra chores because of it. We ended up settling on the term “roommate.”

He is either a good or a bad roommate. He has lived on his own. He completely understands what being a bad roommate means. He helps clean the house and cook a meal. He doesn’t hijack the clothes dryer or leave dishes in the sink. It isn’t the same as giving him a list of chores like when he was younger. We include him in the discussion to let him know our expectations. It isn’t one-sided. He is used to his independence. It isn’t easy, but we trust he will continue to make good choices. He has managed to survive while away from our house. He will survive while he is inside our house. It isn’t all devil-may-care at the Chase household, but we allow plenty of room for discussions to be comfortable together. No one needs to be constantly reminded that the frontal lobe, the rational part of the brain, doesn’t fully develop until a person reaches the age of 25, but we can all think it.

If any of you have children coming home to roost, I hope you can keep the conversations productive.

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