One of parenthood’s major perks is the gigantic tax break that’s delivered along your tiny bundle of joy. As that little joy nugget grows and takes up a larger chunk of your budget, you  look forward to that tax refund (a large percentage of which is allocated back to caring for said joy nugget). Eventually your child grows up, graduates, and gets a full time job… but still freeloads at home, so you naturally intend to continue claiming him/her as a dependent. In fact, you may even say to your now fully grown, less than optimally-functional adult child:  “Joy Nugget, I’m claiming you as a dependent on my taxes so don’t get any big ideas about claiming yourself.”

You might even mention this a grand total of 5 times.

And then one day you submit your tax returns, and about four hours later you get a notice from the IRS:  “Your tax returns have been rejected because Joy Nugget claimed himself”.


This means that your fully grown bundle of joy has a little extra pocket money but you, as the single parent who provided far more than half of his living expenses for the past year, you lose your Head of Household filing status AND the ability to claim your child as a dependent.

Oh, and almost half of your anticipated tax refund.

Now you’re presented with many options. You could contact the IRS and wade through miles of red tape to assure them that your adult kiddo claimed himself in error. (Nope). You could remind your child of the 5 times you told him you’d be claiming him and get lots of excuses and static. (Yep). You can then stew about it for a few days and decide that if Joy Nugget is clever enough and adult-y enough to claim himself on his taxes, he should probably either pay a reasonable rent to live at home or move out.  He chose the latter.

And this how I became a Happy Independent Empty Nester by the end of 2015 tax season.

Reunited With Things I Thought Were Gone Forever (but always knew my son had)

My son spent the majority of last summer in Florida with his dad. When he came home to finish his senior year of high school in Michigan, he proudly announced


and immediately began planning his return trip.

A one-way trip. 

My son is infamous for his passionate but short-lived interests, so I didn’t panic when he shared his plans. I waited for him to remember how much he loved Michigan… and then the lake effect snow came to remind him how much he loathed it here. While his Florida tan faded under overcast Michigan skies, his determination to relocate grew. His girlfriend moved in with us, he got his license, took a job – nothing changed his mind, but still I waited.

He graduated. I spent the morning of his graduation bawling my eyes out because things were getting real. He told everyone at his open house that he was, in fact, moving to Florida. He bought a trailer and new tires for his car with his graduation money. He packed up his winter clothes for donation.

While all of this was happening, I’ve been quietly dealing with unexpected feelings of loss. WTF? I’ve waited years and years for my son to move out and start his own life… why the tears and sadness? Then it dawned on me: my role as an in-house, day-to-day mom is coming to its end. My only child is leaving the nest, and I don’t have a clue what happens next!

Once I realized what was causing the unwelcome emotional response, I was able to come to grips with the inevitability of my son’s departure, now 25 days away. I even added a milestone countdown to the blog (this is happening on this day and don’t you forget it). My son and I have daily conversations about the move: “Where in Michigan would you like to go before you… go *sniffle-sniffle*?”  “Hey Mom, do you want this [bass guitar, couch, chair, pool table] or nah?” “Don’t forget to see the doctor before you leave and get a copy of your medical records.”  “There’s no pilot light for the furnace Mom, or at least I couldn’t find it.” “What do you mean you want to get your own cellphone plan?”

So this is real. And if I needed further proof, yesterday afternoon my son brought me a box full of things that he’s leaving behind for me. He carefully set it down on the kitchen table and showed me the contents:

  • MY screwdrivers (flathead and phillips, various sizes of each
  • MY socket wrench set
  • MY kitchen shears
  • MY paring knives

All of these items disappeared from the house over the last 3 years or so. After insisting he didn’t have them and hinting that perhaps I was daft for imagining they were gone, he sheepishly returned them with a smile I’ll remember for a lifetime. I gave him a hug and thanked him, and now before I start crying again, I’ll go ahead and make a wishlist of other missing items I hope to see again before he goes:

  • Tree trimmers
  • Hedge trimmer
  • Waffle iron
  • Half of my clothes (probably packed in with this winter clothes donation)
  • Tweezers
  • 50 or so spoons
  • Cereal bowls

And perhaps most importantly:

  • the courage and strength I need for whatever happens next