Failure To Launch, Refusal To Grow Up

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I am missing my daughter this summer, her first away from home. Having just completed her college freshman year, she applied for internships, paid her way to an interview in Washington D.C., worked out her housing, and then secured an extra job waitressing on the weekends to save for her sophomore year.

My daughter is 18.

Michael Rotondo lives with his parents, will not get a job, nor contribute around the house. His parents asked him to leave several times. He’s refused.

Mr. Rotondo is 30 years old.

Perhaps you followed the Rotondo case, which ended up in court last week in upstate New York. Frustrated by their son’s refusal to grow up and leave, the parents sued to have him evicted.

The story has received worldwide attention because of the bizarre nature of the case – with plenty of references to the forgettable movie Failure to Launch, which features a couple (Terry Bradshaw and Kathy Bates) that hires a woman (Sarah Jessica Parker) to attract their grown son (Matthew McConaughey) and encourage him to move out of the house. 

Good for a few laughs … 

But then along comes the Rotondo story and you read it again and again, looking for the punchline. There isn’t one. The story has Reality TV written all over it. Apparently, Michael (should we call him Mikey?) thinks so. While his parents stay away from cameras and interviews, Michael is all about his 15 minutes of fame.

While tempted to keep laughing at Michael, pointed out a few non-laughing matters, like Michael is actually a father himself (with no custody or visitation rights to his son) and that he was once arrested for “stalking, menacing, and harassing” a woman. Michael also owns a rifle. Even gun-rights advocates should be concerned.

Commentators on the story are quick to call this another example of the self-centered Millennial generation. Others are blaming a society that does not allow boys to become men. According to Karol Markowicz of the New York Post:

“A Pew Research poll from 2016 showed that men age 18-36, exactly Michael Rotondo’s demographic, were more likely to be living at home with their parents … The same isn’t true for women. We can’t blame this stagnation on the entitlement of the millennial generation when half of that generation is living their lives as intended … To shrug our shoulders and not care what happens to a generation of young men is to produce a generation of Michael Rotondos, adrift and living at home as they enter their 30s.”

Maybe I should have not have used my 18-year-old daughter as an example of responsibility.

Years earlier, my oldest son took an unpaid internship in Baltimore one summer. He lived thriftily and, for transportation, learned the city bus schedules. When he graduated without a job, he took a low-paying internship out of state – and took a second job at a pizza joint – until he worked his way to full-time employment.

None of my three oldest children stayed at home after they graduated. And my two college-age children are not home this summer. I miss them dearly, but our task as parents is to essentially “launch” them with tools to be “a good person, a good citizen. You teach the child morals and instill a work ethic …”

Those words came from a story in this space about saying good-bye to your college-bound children. It included two sentences:  “Love is not coddling. It’s about knowing when to let go.”

This is not magical parenting. Maybe the blessing of a large family on limited resources is that if the kids have goals, they really must work to reach them.

Of course, financial problems force some adult children to stay at home – hopefully temporarily. The Rotondo situation is a disaster.

There is a time for children to grow up and face responsibility. Ages vary, but I’m thinking closer to 18 than 30.


Kevin Thomas is a writer and former teacher living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.