Jack Advises a Prodigal Son

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Dear Jack,

About a month ago, I was laid off, and not long after that a tree wrecked my place during one of the storms. I had to move back in with my parents.

I moved out when I was 18, right after I graduated high school, because I couldn't wait to get away from my parents. It wasn't easy. I lived in a bunch of really crappy apartments and went though about a hundred lazy, slobby, worthless, crazy, thieving, and sometimes psychotic roommates. I worked two and sometimes three jobs just to make rent. My parents never tried to help me out, and I wouldn't have taken their help if they had offered it. We barely spoke for about three years.

Lately things have been getting almost okay. I had a stable group of two roommates in a decent rental house in a pretty good neighborhood. My relationship with my parents was getting better - you could almost call it normal. I thought I had won their respect. They never expected me to amount to anything. My mom recently told me that she thought every day I'd call begging to come back home.

That day finally came, but not through any fault or failure of my own. They welcomed me back and said I could stay as long as I needed. I moved into my old room and stored my stuff in their garage.

It wasn't three days before it was like nothing had changed. My dad has started treating me like I am 17 again, laying down rules that I have to follow as long as I'm living under his roof. He asks me three or four times a day if I've found a job and interrogates me on where I've applied. My mom is harassing me about cleaning my room and helping out around the house. I'm paying rent, by the way, but it doesn't matter. I paid rent when I was 17, too.

My roommates have found a place to live and have replaced me with a new roommate. I don't blame them, because they still have jobs. I'm looking, but there isn't anything out there like what I was doing before, certainly not making the kind of money I was making. I've had a few job offers, but the pay is barely more than I'm getting from unemployment. Today my dad asked me how much longer I plan to stay. He wants his garage back. I'd love to leave, today, but I've got nowhere else to go. Why can't they just leave me alone and give me a chance?

Frustrated

Dear Frustrated,

Parents sometimes see their adult children, not as adults, but as the same helpless little brats too stupid to pull their pants on the right way, because most of the time that's exactly what you are. Not all of us are strong enough to accept our obsolescence in the lives of our children, so the only way we can keep feeling needed is to keep treating you like a child.

You sound like you once had the backbone to stand up to them, walk out the door, and make your own way in the world, once upon a time. You did it once. Do it again. You're older and smarter now, so you won't make quite as many mistakes.

Plenty of people have to start over in life, often from scratch. I've done it six times that I can recall. It isn't fair, but life isn't fair. You may not be able to go back to where you were right away, no matter how much time your parents give you to get back on your feet. You might have to start all over, working low wage jobs and living in crappy apartments with psycho roommates. But isn't that better than having to kiss the ass of the man who wants his garage back more than his son?

Got a problem? Let Jack Waggon set you straight: jack.wagg@gmail.com

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