We know all about Boomerang Kids, that growing section of the population who, having ‘left home’ (which often amounts to no more than having gone to University to get an expensive degree which carries no guarantee of employment) come back to live with their parents. This has many advantages: it’s cheaper than paying rent, it’s comfortable, and if you play it right you can behave like a kid again while having all the freedom of an adult. But what about their parents? This growing section of the population, the generation whose unblocked access to bathroom, sofa and TV remote has proved to be no more than a passing illusion (like being given a Freedom Travel Pass for a couple of months only to have it snatched away), doesn’t even have a name. ‘Boomerang Parents’ just doesn’t sound right and surely should be preserved for old age, when, Lear-like, we throw our senile selves on the mercy of our offspring. ‘Empty Nesters’ is clearly wrong, as it transpires that the nest has never truly emptied – we’ve merely been keeping it warm. ‘Thought-it-had-emptied-nesters’ is too long, so I humbly suggest an appropriate acronym – BERKS – Both Enduring Returning Kids. That’s it. It’s what they called us in their teenage years and now that’s what we’ve become.
Not that I mind having the kids around again. And it’s not as though they wouldn’t prefer to be fully employed and living in a place of their own just as comfortable as their parents’. So why, then, do I feel compelled to go public on the matter? Simple. At the bus stop the other day a friend said ‘Reading Rory’s stuff about being a boomerang. Hilarious!’ And later the same day someone said ‘Your son’s thing about being back home really cracks me up!’. Further investigation unearthed this:
So. Should I embark on a war of words? Possibly. Words, as a couple of anecdotes might illustrate, have always been important in our family.
Some years ago we went to France leaving our seventeen-year-old son home alone for the first time. We had the usual range of parental worries, from whether he would forget to feed the cat or lock himself out, to the possibility of his throwing a Facebook party (on balance we’d have preferred to return to a hungry pet or to find him on the doorstep than to a demolished house). When we arrived I decided to send him a text. As an English teacher I find it very difficult to use text language or textspeak. I’m uncomfortable putting down any of those acronyms or shortened spellings – in my eyes it’s not making it easier, it’s making mistakes. An English teacher using textspeak is like the Pope buying condoms or a vegetarian sneaking off for a Big Mac. It might be what everyone else does but you just know, deep down, you shouldn’t be doing it. So when I text my kids, much to their amusement, I tend to spell everything in longhand. The text I sent him from France said ‘Is everything OK?’ Perfect spelling. Perfect punctuation. He sent a quick response. ‘Unecessary text,’ it said. I looked at it and the English teacher in me just couldn’t stop himself. ‘Two n’s in unnecessary,’ I pointed out in my reply. My son texted back almost immediately: ‘Only one in wanker’.
When my daughter was ten she played her first Scrabble game. I can still remember the glow of paternal pride as she set up the game with her eight-year-old brother. No computer. No Playstation. No exposure to inappropriate sex or violence. Just an old-fashioned, improving board game. What a great parent! How I wanted all those pushy school-gate mums to make an unexpected visit. Their kids would be doing all kinds of terrible things. Their kids would be sitting in front of the TV, stuffing their faces with E-numbers. Their kids would definitely not be playing Scrabble.
When I put my head round the door to see how my two wonderful, so well-brought-up children were getting on my daughter beamed at me and pointed at the board. And there it was – her first ever Scrabble word, straddling the pink square for a double word score. It had four letters. The first was a C. The last was a T. My daughter beamed. But she could see I was horrified. And I was horrified. I was outraged. How could she do such a thing? How could she let me down so badly? There, on her rack, was an ‘H’, and if she’d put down ‘HUNT’ she’d have scored two more points.
That’s it from the Boomerang Dad, pleased to have them back, pleased to have brought them up so confident in their use of English swear words, and pleased to have derived from one of those incidents the inspiration for a scene in my first novel, No Regrets.