Suburban Life: What to Expect When Living With Your Parents

There’s a certain expectation within society of how one’s life is supposed to unfold. As a guy you’re supposed to graduate from high school, either get a job or go to college and then get a job, meet and marry a girl, have kids, and grow old. At no point in that to-do list will you see “quit your job and move back in with your parents after living on your own for fourteen years.” Apparently, I’m one of the few who got that memo.

Since moving in with my parents there has been a period of adjustment and acceptance on both sides over our current living arrangements. The fact that my parents live in the suburbs and I lived in the middle of the city only made that adjustment period a little more daunting for me. I definitely knew life had changed on my first night back in the fold. With no “city” noises to lull me to sleep I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling until two or three in the morning because it was too quiet (I swear I could hear myself think – either that or the rocks in my head were shifting around while I tossed and turned). I was subsequently awakened just before dawn by the sound of birds chirping outside my window, which sent me flying out of bed – completely disoriented – trying to figure out where the explosion of sound was coming from. The turning point for my parents wasn’t quite so subdued.

I made a pot of chili a couple weeks after moving in. As part of my recipe I used a couple chipotle peppers, which adds a lot of flavor and spice to help make a very tasty dish. About half the peppers were left over, which I stored – with the adobo sauce – in an unmarked piece of tupperware. The key word in the previous sentence would be “unmarked” because my Mom doesn’t cook with such exotic things as peppers. So, when my Dad was rooting around in the refrigerator looking for lunch one afternoon he mistook the peppers for beef stew and spread them on a bagel (I don’t know why you would want to spread what you think is beef stew on a bagel, but anyway…). The next thing I knew, he was yelling and screaming at me thinking that he had eaten poison (apparently the peppers were quite spicy in their raw form). Which, after I stopped rolling on the floor laughing/crying, I assured him was not the case (he also later confided the peppers were so spicy that he was scared to go to the bathroom).

So, I think it’s fair to say that my parents and I have learned that you can, and can’t, expect certain things when your adult son moves in. I learned that in the suburbs you can expect it to be very quiet at night. My parents learned that you can’t expect to know what’s in the refrigerator anymore. In that spirit, here are a few other things I’ve learned to expect and not expect.

  • You can’t expect to walk around naked. Not that I do anyway, but it would be nice to have the option.
  •  You can expect someone to be around all the time. After living by myself for almost nine years, this has probably been the hardest thing to get used to. Both parents are retired, which means there is literally always someone else around. Besides making it a little awkward to walk around naked, you can also forget doing anything in uninterrupted silence. Which also means…
  •  You can’t expect to find any quiet time. I long ago gave up trying to hear the TV, the phone, the radio or any other auditory device. It seems like there’s always something else running in another room (the radio, washer or dryer, dishwasher, vacuum, the list goes on), someone interrupting with a question or wanting to start a conversation, or someone yelling at someone else in another room (it seems like the older you get the louder your conversations get).
  •  You can expect to lose weight. Maybe Morgan Spurlock was onto something with his documentary Super Size Me. Since I’ve cut most fast food out of my diet and been eating Mom’s home cooking (yes, that includes family meals every night) I’ve noticed my clothes fit a little better. However…
  •  You can’t expect to impress girlsNo matter how much weight you lose. For some reason telling a girl you’re unemployed and living with your parents doesn’t work too well as a conversation starter at the bar. Unless you’re looking for girls that may be missing some teeth and live in a trailer with their parents (then again, there’s one thing we’d have in common).
  •  You can expect a mass produced experience. It seems like everything is the same in the suburbs. Every shopping center seems to have the same big box stores. Every grocery store has the same food. Every restaurant is a chain. Everything seems so cookie cutter perfect compared to more urban environments. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s just not for me anymore – I miss my mom-and-pop stores
  •  You can’t expect to make grand gestures while watching TV. This one especially applies when watching sports game. If I start yelling or clapping or doing anything that involves a large explosion of sound people come running from all directions to make certain I haven’t hurt myself or broken the TV or furniture.
  •  You can expect to drive everywhere. Another annoying aspect of life in the suburbs. Considering you can’t really stumble home from the bar, it’s a wonder more people don’t get arrested for DUIs around here. Then again, there probably aren’t many people living in the suburbs who need to stumble home from the bar.

So, how does one deal with all of this change? Well, realizing this is a temporary solution helps. Having a third TV solves most problems (everyone can retreat to their own corner of the house). I pitch in and help around the house where I can (even if it means sitting on the porch with a beer while chasing birds out of hanging flower baskets). And, if push comes to shove, I go hang out with friends because one thing never changes – parents just don’t understand (and I don’t always understand them).

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