I've always been intrigued by adults who never leave their parents' home. There was something mysterious about that extra room in a friend's basement where some 30 year-old son was living and eating up their momma's grits and eggs. I wasn't old enough to appreciate any type of economic/emotional disability associated with these dead beat kids: all I saw was an adult person tied to their momma's apron strings and that was interesting. See, I was out of the house at 18. Largely due to my first year in undergrad, but my parents also insisted (by example) to be ruthlessly independent. I used to get nervous when I had to ask for fifty dollars to help pay for a past-due phonebill. Oh, the parents were no joke. They believed if you can't afford to pay the bill then there was no need for the phone.
Over at the New York Times' blog Room for Debate, five writers discuss the rise of "The 40-Something Dependent Child". I'm not sure how much of a "rise it is, but writer Kathleen Gerson offers a chunk of wisdom on the grown-child crazy:
"The days are gone when middle- and working-class parents could simply pass on their advantages, and, after either paying for college or providing a route to a good union job, rely on an expanding economy to provide upward mobility. In 21st century America, stable, well-paying jobs and self-supporting families have faded just as the gray flannel suit, unionized factory work, and the Cleaver household did in earlier eras.
In this context, children need more years to develop the emotional maturity, cognitive skills and social intelligence to navigate the challenges of uneasy transitions, fluid careers and changing families. Because they must postpone adult independence while developing these personal resources, their parents face tough new choices about how much and how long to support them.
The temptation or need to cut children loose conflicts with giving them the support to prepare for adulthood."
Oh, so that was the deal. Black parents were actually keeping their grown children hostage to help develop their emotional maturity. (I say Black because I grew up in a predominately Black albeit suburban environment). All of this time I thought grown boy was sitting up in moms' living room watching Scooby Doo because he was too distracted by self-indulgence to get a job. I guess I was wrong. (Folks, I'm joking, I'm joking). In all seriousness, I wonder if some black families keep their grown babies close in order to protect them from the uneven playing field of America. I wonder if some families are suffering from a long history of co-dependence and don't know how to break the habit. I wonder if it's all ridiculous and folks need to get courageous and just kick their 40 year-olds out. No more free grits and eggs.
Keith Josef Adkins is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and social commentator.