My friend Jane shared a funny story, one that I am sure will resonate with any middle-aged parents whose children have left the nest. She allowed me to share it with my readers in the hopes of stirring some discussion – and frankly, she and I would both like to hear some opinions from other parents of grown kids!
Her son Patrick, after a few years living at home post-college, was moving to Cambridge. Jane came home a few weeks ago to find Patrick and friends moving a bookcase from his bedroom into a waiting vehicle.
“Why are you taking that?” Jane asked.
“Well, it’s mine isn’t it?,” Patrick answered, very innocently.
“We did buy it for you, but it belongs to the house,” said Jane. Patrick answered that Jane and her husband Rich also bought him a laptop, and that the bookcase was in the same category.
Now Patrick is not a disrespectful kid whose had everything handed to him. He has studied hard and worked hard, graduated at the top of his class at a very competitive college, and has made his parents very proud. Still, you have to wonder how much of his bedroom is his by law and how much belongs to the house.
“You’re not taking any of the silverware with you, are you?” asked Jane, with mock suspicion. She let him take the bookcase.
Jane shared her story with a number of our friends, and all had different reactions. Some felt she was right; others felt that kids should be able to take their furniture with them when they move.
Our grown kids have taken plenty of old furniture, but only stuff that had been updated with something else. Since we are a blended family, we occasionally face ethical questions in this area. For example, my kids’ grandparents left them some fine old end tables, which are beautiful but very traditional. Neither of my kids wanted them but Bob’s kids were thrilled to have them. So we figured that my kids’ grandparents, who were good souls, wouldn’t have minded.
Our biggest problem is just the opposite from Jane’s: we wish our fledglings would take more from the nest. Our basement is filled with old posters with brass frames and cracked glass; class pictures from the early 1990s; flea-ridden Beanie Babies; a frame for a trundle bed that hasn’t been slept upon since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were popular. And lots of pole lamps, which Bob seems to collect. But I digress.
Patrick and his girlfriend Olivia hosted Jane and Rich at their apartment a few weeks ago. Patrick was regaling his folks with a story about each piece of furniture and where he found it. The bookcase, he said slyly, was a Craigslist find.
Would love to know where other parents stand. What should kids be allowed to take with them when they leave? And in the spirit of full disclosure, I should tell you that our son John has two bureaus in his bedroom that had been mine when I was five years old! The scary thing is that I still remember when the furniture guys brought them into the old bedroom that I shared with my sister!