Boomerang kids – Young adults who leave home with youthful idealism and excitement about the adventures awaiting them, only to ricochet back to their rooms when life out of the nest, with it’s pesky responsibilities, thwarts their efforts at independence. All three of my children, after departing with much fan fair and excitement, boomeranged home at one time or another. Now that they have truly all been launched, I can share a story about them.
My husband and I had deposited our youngest son on the doorstep of George Washington University mid August of 2001 – we were empty nested for the first time in 11 years of our re-marriage. My daughter was in her third year of college in North Carolina. We like to say we were empty nested for less than an hour when my daughter called to say, “I’m coming home, Mom, I’ve decided to drop out of school. This way you won’t have to worry about having an empty nest”. This conversation occurred as we were driving back to our Florida home. All I could say was, “Let me call you back, honey”. We pulled over at a rest stop and I bought a pack of cigarettes.
As it turned out, my daughter was suffering from a love affair gone bad. Her panic about her future and ours over the Al-Qaeda attacks on 9/11 made for a stressful fall that year. In the midst of this upheaval, my son, newly ensconced in his freshman dorm in DC, was kicked out of school on the first day of classes for smoking pot. In spite of appeals, he was sent home for 3 semesters. (Thirteen years hence he has completed his Ph.D. and is a clinical psychologist in Chicago).
This is a testimonial from a boomer mom who is here to say, you can live through and even flourish in the midst of these emotional traumas, and an increasingly crowded nest.
During the fall of 2001, as I was spending time in bed with the covers pulled over my head, I conceived of the Jeremiah Project. (I needed a survival kit, as was the case with many of my boomer friends) The Jeremiah Project is an after school and summer pottery and digital arts program targeted to reach at-risk middle school aged kids. This program is celebrating its tenth year and has become the arts education program for Boys and Girls Clubs in Central Florida. I am director of the Jeremiah Project. I realized I needed something positive to focus on in the midst of an extremely negative and fearful time. The pottery piece of Jeremiah emphasizes self-esteem building through art. Clay is a wonderful teacher. It comes from the ground and grounds the people it touches. Many of these kids come from very dysfunctional families. While it would appear we are helping the kids, they are really the ones healing us. (A number of our staff are aging boomers). Working with these kids fulfills that nurturing instinct since our own kids really do eventually leave the nest.
I am now in my third baby boomer incarnation as a blogger and clay artist. (My husband has dubbed me a clay writer because I enjoy sculpting with words and writing in clay). My little company, Be Brave. Lose the Beige, specializes in issues facing Lady Boomers.
One of my clay sculptures is entitled, “What’s in Your Empty Nest?”. It’s a question we should ask ourselves as we rebuild our nests and make room for our own dreams. And sure, there will still be some “room” (although perhaps a shared one alongside your guitar, art supplies and exercise equipment) for the kids to come home on the weekends.
Thus, I am here to testify, it is possible to create a fun, interesting life after the nest empties, fills back up, and empties out again.