(Nancy LaFever’s interview with humor writer Amy originally appeared on mymove.com. Reposted by permission.)
It’s not uncommon these days for grown children to move back home with parents while looking for a job after college, due to financial concerns or a change in life circumstances. But some parents that would normally be empty nesters are finding their young adult kids have yet to fledge or show signs of leaving home any time soon. As a parent, how do you be supportive of your children while edging them towards independence and the door?
My Move sought advice from humor writer Amy Mullis for tips on the topic.
My Move: According to your blog, Mind Over Mullis, you have two sons, 22 and 24, living with you and your husband. This could be prime empty-nest time to hang out with your hubby, take up the cross-bow or enjoy other child-free pastimes. What methods have you tried to persuade the kids to get their own place?
Mullis: “Nancy, it might be most helpful to make sure parents know what NOT to do in this situation. Do you remember the movie Gremlins? The rules to remember: Never expose the gremlin to sunlight, never get it wet, and never EVER feed it after midnight. Well, that’s standard procedure for KWR (Kids Who Roost).
My Move: I’m familiar with parenting guides by Dr. Spock, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,”etc., but not aware of the Gremlins Parenting Method. Would you elaborate a bit on it?
Mullis: “There’s no real need to worry about the first two rules. My guys haven’t seen sunlight since the PlayStation came out. They live by the light of an electronic screen. As long as the rechargeable batteries in the Xbox controllers hold out, they never need to leave the house. My tip? As soon as you can manage a snatch-and-grab, shove those batteries down the garbage disposal.
Never get it wet? I have one kid who never goes in the bathroom without his laptop. He hasn’t showered on his own since I was slow with the diaper in 1991. It’s not likely he’ll meet with any more moisture than a power flush provides. So I’ve shaken — not stirred — all the canned soft drinks in the house. Sooner or later one will blow up in his face and give him an understanding of what reality shows are all about. If that fails, there’s a trick with the kitchen sprayer I’m dying to try.
As for the last rule, I find that it’s the most important one. NEVER, EVER feed them at all. Kids are like fire ants. Once they find a food source, they bring in reinforcements and sting you till your wallet goes up in smoke. And Wal-Mart’s got nothing in the garden center to take care of these guys. Unplug the refrigerator before they find the string cheese left over from last Christmas.
(By the way, that cross-bow thing is beginning to sound pretty good. Thanks for the tip.)”
My Move: Parents often provide encouragement and support to inspire their children to succeed. With the demise of the Hostess Company (may Twinkie rest in peace), what will you do to bribe — err — motivate the kids?
Mullis: “Don’t keep food in the house. That sort of thing is trouble waiting to happen. Unless it’s liver mush. There’s nothing like liver mush to inspire outward-bound motivation.”
My Move: Your boys are in school, right? Do you, hubby and the kids have a general timeline for launch? Does your projection synch with the kids’?
Mullis: “I figure I’ll see the last kid leave just about the time he discovers that all I have to leave him in the will is some do-it-yourself magic beans. I’ll provide the beans. He’ll have to do the rest.”
My Move: What advice would you give other parents with children who have yet to leave the nest or have come back to roost?
Mullis: “I come from the South where we have large extended families to help each other in times of dire need. I suggest you make sure there’s enough family that they can always go live with somebody else. That’s the perfect time to get back at your Aunt Mildred for saying you have the figure of a chamber pot. Or that brother-in-law who still owes you money from the Self-Scratching Underwear scheme that petered out.”
My Move thanks Amy Mullis for her thoughtful tips and hopes she can say “bon voyage” to the boys sometime soon.
— Nancy LaFever
Nancy LaFever is a contributor to mymove.com and pens the blog, Single People’s Grocery Lists. As a freelance writer, she has published more than 150 magazine articles and hundreds of blog posts on topics including fine crafts, business, women’s issues, travel, humor and popular culture.