Last Updated Oct 14, 2009 1:26 PM EDT
This post was updated on May 4, 2012
I had nowhere to live.
At 28 years old, I left my job and moved out of my apartment in Los Angeles. My parents' house was my final option. But after moving home, I quickly realized that although I was a grown man, I was subject to the rules of my father's house.
I started to write down the funny, often profane, things my father said and posted them on Twitter, and, in a stroke of ridiculous luck, people actually liked them (the feed now has more than 3 million subscribers). People who know about my situation often ask me how I manage to get along with my 73-year-old dad, and so I thought I'd share some memorable things he's said that help to illustrate how to achieve harmony with your suddenly back-at-home adult children.
"This is my $#%&! house!"
Although you might not say it quite the way my dad does, it's important for parents to let their adult children know this, because we can get a bit too comfortable living at home. But it's also important that your rules of the house evolve just a bit from the time when we were kids. For instance, my dad refuses to put locks on any of the doors in our house, meaning he can just burst into any room whenever he wants. That can make for very awkward situations that I don't feel like detailing here. But that's a great example of a rule that feels a bit out of date. Think of your son or daughter as a tenant that you can occasionally yell at, and that sort of distance in the relationship will help you coexist.
Don't [expletive] with my computer desk
My dad said this to me as soon as I moved in, and, needless to say, I stay far away from his computer desk. But as a parent, you should also recognize that your kids are going to need some area of the house that's theirs and theirs alone. And, more generally, if you send clear messages as a parent -- like my dad's -- it's easier for your kids to respect them. And if they don't, you have a legitimate gripe and can hold it over their heads to manipulate them over and over again. Or not, depending on how petty you are.
"Don't snort any [expletive] cocaine, that's for losers and movie producers. You're neither."
Your kids have been living on their own for a while, going out late, and doing whatever it is they do, so try to respect that they're adults now. Of course, certain issues -- such as sex or, in the case of my father, drugs, -- may be deal breakers for some parents, so spell out exactly what those are to your kids. If something is left fuzzy, trust me: It will end up becoming a problem. If you feel yourself starting to react passive-aggressively toward your children, say something. As my dad often says, "Say what you [expletive] mean. Don't be a [expletive]."
"It's watering plants, damn it. You just take a hose and put it over the plant."
Don't feel weird about asking your grown child to do chores. We should do chores -- after all you've been gracious enough to let us live in your home. But try not to phrase it so that it makes us feel like little kids again (see my dad's comment). If we aren't willing to do chores, then we're spoiled little brats, which is probably your fault anyway.
"I don't give a [expletive] when you leave, I just need to know you're [expletive] leaving someday."
The most important piece of advice I can give to parents is not to let your adult child move back in without a plan. Kids shouldn't feel too comfortable moving back home, no matter how nice their parents are. If you ask your child what his plans are and what his goal for moving out is, then you can avoid a lot of future passive-aggressive behavior on both your parts. When I came home, I told my dad that I was going to find a place within three months and pay off all my debt. His reply? "Just do it; I don't need to hear all the [expletive]." You'll probably want to discuss more specifics than my dad, but that was enough for him. He's referenced that plan several times since, and I think it makes him happy. At least I sure as [expletive] hope so.
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