Tales from the un-emptied nest

By Mir
January 22, 2020

It’s a weird thing, having everyone back at home again. And not just because I will periodically look around and yell “Who ARE all you people? Don’t you have adult lives to pursue elsewhere??” There’s some driveway Jenga to be done with everyone’s cars here. There are more dishes (OMG SO MANY DISHES) lying around. It’s both louder (at times) and quieter (at times; turns out that young adults like to nap an awful lot) than I expected. The dogs are delighted. Otto is… resigned, I’d say. And once again I’ve taken out the step basket that lives on the stairs so that I can toss things into it which belong up in the kids’ rooms so that they can… ignore those items on their way up the stairs. Old habits die hard, it seems.

I am learning to let things go, though. For example, there was a time when I would’ve lovingly prepared a dinner acceptable to everyone in the house (harder than it might sound, with three picky eaters and various dietary restrictions) and then gotten my feelings hurt if it wasn’t consumed and appreciated by everyone as planned. Last night I made one of our family favorites and… Otto ended up coming home very late, Monkey went and ate at a friend’s house, and Chickadee “napped” and then went to bed for the night. You know what? No biggie. The leftovers are in the fridge. Someone will eat them. Eventually. Maybe I’ll slip them under someone’s pillow. (New more-mature me still has some odd fantasies, but whatever.)

Having more adults around means more help with stuff, though. I mean, in theory. One night last week, Otto and I went out to dinner and the abundance of people in the house meant the dogs didn’t need to be crated and could have their normal evening routine (barking and sleeping, for Duncan, and pouncing on toys and begging for food, for Licorice). When we got home—many, many hours after the dogs normally have dinner (I’m sure you have no idea where this is going)—we discovered that no one had fed the dogs. One child young adult assumed the other had taken care of it and the other child young adult assumed we’d fed them before we left because “they didn’t seem hungry.” (Have you ever met a dog, ever? They ALWAYS seem hungry, even if they just ate.)

There was a time when this would’ve enraged me, but now it just seems sort of ridiculous. But I did make a mental note that when Otto and I take a little mini-trip we have planned, I need to write out instructions to the letter if I don’t want to be panicked about the dogs the whole time.

I do appreciate that they largely take turns being slackers, though. For example: Right now Monkey is working, and Chickadee is not. This will change, but that’s how it is for the moment. Monkey gets himself up and out the door for work without fail, and I trust he is working his skinny behind off for the paltry sum they pay him. Go, Monkey! In contrast, Chickadee often sleeps until noon or later, and this is fine and part of our agreed-upon decompression period, but when I see her wandering around in her pajamas at dinnertime I do sometimes wonder if things have gone a wee bit too far.

But on the other hand, at some point we ran out of bread and Monkey told me, rather pointedly, “We’re out of bread.” Which, okay, thanks for letting me know. But IF ONLY there was some other way to obtain bread as a functioning adult with a car and a bank account OTHER THAN reporting this crime against sandwiches to your mother…? The same day, Chickadee went out to the store, procured foodstuffs she wanted but which we did not currently have on hand, came home, cooked herself a meal, consumed it, and then—I hope you’re sitting down—did not just her own dishes, but ALL OF THE DISHES IN THE SINK. Go, Chickie! I came home to find the kitchen freshly cleaned and nearly stroked out on the spot. (It made the dinnertime jammies a distant memory, I tell you what.)

Corollary: Monkey decided to make himself a frozen pizza for lunch today, because he’s a gourmet like that. As I saw him headed back up the stairs a bit later, I called out, “Did you clean up after yourself in the kitchen?” He assured me he had. So imagine my surprise when I later went into the kitchen and found… a pizza box on the counter, a used cutting board halfway in the sink, etc. I asked him to come back down and ACTUALLY clean up and he did, but I am left wondering what, exactly, happened earlier. Was it a BIGGER mess and he’d already made it smaller? Does he just answer yes to anything I ask to get me to be quiet? I’m afraid to investigate further.

Perhaps my favorite so far, though, was when Chickadee went to a conference for a week and arrived home with her luggage and a bunch of other bags of stuff. She immediately dropped everything in my office, which—to be fair—is the entry point at the back of the house and where we have a coat tree and a shoe rack. But. Bags and bags of stuff, kind of in the middle of my office. “My office is not your crap repository,” I reminded her, after the bags remained untouched for a day. “Please don’t leave all your stuff in there. Take it upstairs.” She hemmed and hawed because reasons and maybe she said, “I CAN’T REMEMBER, I HAVE THE ADHD” and that didn’t work on me because 1) I also have ADHD but function and 2) there is no “the” in front of “ADHD.” A little bit later I noticed that she’d taken everything out of my office.

… and moved it all to the dining room. (College graduate! With high honors! What a brain that one has, amirite?)

Meanwhile, sometimes it hardly seems like they’re here at all, because we still hear from them more via text than anything else. Take, for example, one night when Otto decided the kids needed to see a picture of derpy Duncan asleep on our bed. (Yes, he’s still alive. No, he’s not getting better, but he doesn’t seem to be getting worse, either.) This prompted a matching pic of Licorice upstairs and… well, here:

So I guess the upshot is that we all love the dogs and also capital letters, and there are sort of a lot of people here sometimes and sometimes not.

It’s weird. But also—don’t tell the kids I said so—kind of nice.


  1. Leanne

    Even though I have 2 teenage boys, I’m pretty sure my children are your children. The,”Yes, I cleaned the kitchen” only to find pretty much everything they could have used out in the kitchen is continually perplexing to me. I try to encourage my kids to use the “one touch” rule. In other words touch things once and put things away as you use them instead of, say set dirty dishes in the sink. This rule has yet to permeate either of their brains though.

  2. Lori O

    Both my adult(ish) kids are living home right now, too, and while my son is going to be here for a while, I’m very much aware that my time with my daughter is fleeting and I’m trying to treasure it. Which I do, very much, when we lay on my bed and watch The Good Place together. Less so when I’m cleaning up the mat of hair from the bottom of the shower even though she swears she did it herself already, or trying to avoid looking at the disaster that’s her room. As I’ve said more than once, she’s an awesome daughter, but not the world’s best roommate. Still. She’s here, and soon she won’t be, and I will cry.

  3. StephLove

    My oldest just went back to school and while he was here I was also surprised how much more laundry and dishes there seemed to be. Also, my youngest, who is still in middle school, has no concept of what “clean up after yourself in the kitchen” might even mean. They like to cook so it’s a good news/bad news type of situation when I come from book club and there’s chocolate pudding, but also chocolate pudding dishes in the sink.

  4. Mary K. in Rockport

    I know just what you mean!

  5. Brigitte

    I’m stealing “I HAVE THE ADHD!”

  6. Jeanie

    I’m so glad everything’s going well. My son moved back in with me temporarily, oh, about 30ish years ago. My grandson moved in a bit later. Guess how old he is. He’ll be 35 this year. In all fairness he has “special needs” and is waaaay better off here than with his mother.

  7. SueL

    Ah, the “I cleaned the kitchen” which apparently means that all the dishes and pots and pans are sitting (perhaps with dish soap in them) in a jumble in the sink.

    Similar to “I have the ADHD” is when my daughter, then maybe 5, informed me “Mom, bad news, I have the puberty”. I held my laughter, and asked what made her think that and it turned out it was a thread in her underwear, not hair growth!! I assured her “the puberty” wouldn’t be rearing her ugly head for many more years!

    Glad you are enjoying the un-empty nest.

  8. Chuck

    I moved home after getting out of the military to finish my undergraduate degree…worked while doing so. I was very anxious to finish my degree, find a “career” job, and move out (a process which took about 18 months)…but looking back it was a really nice period of my life, and I kind of regret not appreciating it more at the time.

  9. Jan

    Hello, OBVIOUSLY, the answer to ‘did you clean up the kitchen?’ is truth … ‘Yes, Mom, I absolutely *did* clean up after myself …… [that one time back in late 2009]’

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