Give your kids wings and they’ll fly out of the nest

The best thing about having children is watching them learn and grow. But it’s also the worst thing, because when they grow up, they leave home.

My husband would say that’s a good thing, and I guess I agree. If you give children a good start and some strong wings, the kids should be able to fly out of the nest and take on the world.

The day after I graduated from college, I began to take on the world myself. But my mother was horrified when she found out where I was living — a furnished basement room in a house next to a cemetery. And she was doubly horrified when, after a spring rain, I told her my room got wet and I had to tiptoe around damp spots on the carpet.

But I was on my own a hundred miles from home, and there wasn’t much she could do about it. She would not really have wanted to anyway. “21 and out!” was her battle cry as we grew up — there were to be no apron strings for us to hold onto.

We all obliged her and moved as soon as we had our diplomas. And I wasn’t in that basement room for long. I found an apartment over a liquor store that was much better.

As I raised my own children, I did not exactly echo my mother’s “21 and out!” cry, but I’d brag to my sons about my adventures as a journalist living on my own. I think I made it pretty clear that living at home after college would not be cool. There would be no failure to launch in my family.

It worked, because my sons flew the nest the minute they could.

I wasn’t all that impressed with my oldest son’s first post-college home, either. It was a small, dingy, ranch house near the University of Maryland, packed with five or six other students and recent grads.

He didn’t stay there long. He stretched his wings even farther, by going on a solo drive to California and back, and later, two different solo trips abroad to visit friends in the Peace Corps in Albania and Kyrgyzstan (I had to look that one up on a map).

My second son went to college in Georgia and never lived at home again except for a few holiday breaks. He studied abroad in France while in college and, just a couple of years ago, hiked the entire Appalachian Trail by himself.

My youngest was not to be outdone by his brothers. He attended a college that required study abroad, but did he choose the mini-mester in Mexico or a term in Paris? No. He chose South Africa.

And after meeting a young lady there, he went back and lived there for a year after he graduated. (He was a bit surprised when, a month or so after his college graduation, I asked him when he was moving out. Within a week he found a room to rent from a friend until he left for Africa.)

So, I guess I gave them some strong wings. Or a strong desire to get out of the house. But it’s all good. We enjoy visiting each other and are on good terms. They call when they have cooking questions and, of course, I love to give my kitchen advice. 

But I wouldn’t want them at home any more than they would want to live in their old rooms.

That’s because I’ve finally adapted to the empty nest. It has taken me quite a while. My youngest son is almost 27, after all. Now I like the quiet life my husband and I can have at home. We set our bedtime, our dinner menu and our roster of activities without having to account for anyone but ourselves. It’s liberating.

It’s also inevitable. I absolutely loved having my children at home when they were young. Those were some of my happiest years. But it couldn’t last, not if I wanted my sons to grow up to be healthy adults.

They all live on their own now, as they should. They have independence, confidence, wings — and I love to watch them fly. 

Teresa Cook is a multiplatform copy editor for the Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach her at 717-771-2022 or 

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