Every year I need two days to recover. Two days of mourning, of melancholy, of nostalgia. After finishing my annual spring pilgrimage to my two youngest sons living in different states, I always return home with a heavy heart. I sulk and I mope, hoping for what I know is completely selfish and totally out of my control.
Let me be frank here. I wish the boys — oops, young men — lived closer. I wish I could see them more often. I wish I could rest easy in the knowledge that one day they will return, if not to the same ZIP Code at least to the general vicinity of Miami. Never mind that they visit at least three times a year. Never mind that our emotional oases in the desert of separation are filled with joy and pride of accomplishment. Never mind that I get to see how they live, how they work, how they practice what I taught them. Never mind that I have no reason to quibble, no excuse to demand.
I’m greedy, OK? I want what I want, and it’s near impossible to pretend otherwise.
I was sharing this emotional angst with a cousin right about the time another kind of parent-son relationship was unfolding in the glare of the media spotlight. You might have heard about Mark and Christina Rotondo, parents of Michael, a 30-year-old who has yet to find his way in the world. Actually, he’s the perfect example of what society now calls failure to launch, the botched attempt to complete the tenuous and nerve-wracking process in which a child becomes an adult who can stand on his own two feet.
Michael lives in his parents’ house. He doesn’t have a job, and he apparently has a lot of time on his hands, too. But his parents want him out of their split-level ranch in upstate New York. I’m not sure why — news stories are vague about this — but I suspect they have their reasons; their very good reasons. Watching an adult child slog through life without direction or ambition can be a tough pill to swallow. Seeing it every day under your very roof must be mental torture.
So let’s just say that Mark and Christina had reached the end of their parental rope when they appealed to the Supreme Court of New York State. In court filings they said they had been trying to get their son to leave for months, even giving him five written notices and an offer of money to get him started in his own place.
“Michael, here is $1,100 from us to you so you can find a place to stay,” reads a Feb. 18 letter, which goes on to say he needs to get a job, move his broken car and sell some of his belongings until he finds employment.
Michael has done none of this. Instead, citing legal cases, he argued in court that his parents owed him a reasonable amount of time before giving him the boot, namely a six-month transition. The judge wasn’t amused, however. While he complimented Michael on his legal research, he ordered his eviction.
The Rotondos’ case is unusual only because the living arrangements have devolved into a fractious relationship. More adult children are living (peacefully) with their parents than in past generations, a result of the Great Recession, high rents, low pay, and exorbitant student loans. As a mother, I think it’s wonderful that a family can gather resources to help each other out.
But there comes a time in every child’s life when he much launch from the comforts of parental protection. Even if he falters, even if opportunities take him cross country. The Rotondos made me recognize that. Instead of focusing on the physical distance between my sons and me, I now realize I should be thankful for their independence and initiative, their drive and determination. Separation can be a good thing, for both parent and offspring.
But must the distance be so many hundreds of miles?