Time to ship out, son

friendship, technology, games and home concept - smiling male fr

“There’s going to be a whole demographic of men out there who will remain single and miserable!”

She was feeding on my throwaway comment about parents who can’t bring themselves to let their sons grow up and move out of the house — or sons who can’t bring themselves to leave.

Was that a collective sigh I just heard all across Ottawa?

The opinion came from the most expert source of human relations I know. I’ve come to trust her in matters of child rearing, who, by sheer instinct rather than literature, knew when to be angry, when to be nurturing, when to be feared and when to be loved: my wife (would it, could it, be anybody else? Insert winking smiley face emoticon here).

No doubt, there is a psychologist reading this in the process of poo-pooing this as an immense generalization. How could we as “ordinary” parents, after all, possibly use such a forum as Ottawa Parenting Times to espouse such a massive and unproven theory?

To you I say: spare me the platitudes and tell your 26-year-old man-child to throw off the tyranny of the game controller and move out already.

And yes, it’s the sons I’m picking on. You know who you are. Or your parents do.

There’s my neighbour, who could double as Dad in the old sitcom, My Three Sons. Only his “boys” are early- to mid-twenty-something men who sport beards and tattoos. Their mom still does their laundry and cooks their meals. Imagine Chip or Ernie with four-wheel drives and beer fridges beside their beds.

There’s our former colleague at the business we used to run, who wrung her hands out of fear her two 30-something sons would meet some nice girls, get married and move out. While complaining about making their lunches every morning, she’d fret that she hadn’t hung up their freshly ironed shirts when she left the house that morning.

And so as post-secondary industry employees who meet and teach young women and men each year, forgive our opinions as we marvel at the number whose parents – particularly moms —process their son’s applications, ask questions, and even apologize for him not making the inquiries themselves.

I was raised in a house of five boys, all of who did not wait for the door to hit their backsides on the way out. Living in a post-war bungalow, with an overbearing and grumpy father, over-worked mother and six other human beings who were fed the blandest food the 1960s could muster, does that to you.

Home was not a place we had been particularly enamoured of by the time we entered our late teens. There were arguments that morphed into fights, crises real and imagined, curfews, rules, uncomfortable school meetings, begging for the car, and illnesses that swamped the entire house with colds, flus and probably the plague.

And that was the good stuff.

The key was getting a driver’s licence, which was akin to winning a lottery. Once we had licences, we had dad’s car. And that was our first step to freedom.

So I look back on leaving home not as a somber moment, as so many parents do, but a victory that triggered a sense of independence. Why, within a generation, and to paraphrase Winston Churchill, have so many young men been so willing to do so little to leave home?

Theories abound, from delayed maturity caused by over-parenting sparked by separation and divorce compensation, to late-night gaming, social media and “other” online activity that renders a “meh” mentality.

You’re not allowed to label anyone “lazy” these days, so I’ll end this by saying no parent is doing their offspring a favour by making life too cosy for them. There may be a few feathers lost in the process, but chicks are meant to leave the nest, if for no other reason than they’ve outgrown it.