Flying Back to the Nest


Typically, it’s the children who leave the nest to make a life for themselves. It didn’t work that way in our family. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Not long after my brother and I moved out of the house for college, marriage, and general adulthood, these two flew the coop. Instead of staying in their empty nest, they left my childhood home in Sacramento to lead church communities in Seattle, and most recently, India. Their faithfulness to God in venturing to new places inspired me. The loss of their local presence grieved me. Sunday Skype calls, emailed greeting cards, and holiday visits (or Scottish vacations) would have to sustain us with this new distance between us.

Of course, plenty happened in my own life in Sacramento as they were gone: growing into my own marriage, graduation from Western Seminary, the start of a church in my home, the birth of my daughter, the adoption of boy one and boy two, the launch of a certain photography business. I suppose it was enough to take my mind off the fact that my parents were far away. I realize now that I stayed “in the nest” as they stretched their wings and flew away…

…Which makes their return all the more joyful.

Mom and Dad arrived at the Sacramento airport a couple of weeks ago with a fan club of five at the baggage claim. There was much hugging despite our stoic, Germanic roots. We piled into two cars since we could no longer all fit into one car as we could when they first moved away. We made our way into Sacramento for the closest Mexican food we could find. Taquerias are few and far between in India, and simple chips and guacamole had been but a dream for my parents for years now. I don’t know what they felt as they bit into those chips, but for me, Sacramento felt even more like home than it had for some time with them across the table.

Since that day, Mom and Dad have been living with us in our home. Successfully. They’ve squatted in my daughter’s purple and pink bedroom, while she’s taken up residence in the playroom. And despite having just one bathroom, we’ve not yet had any bathroom related emergencies. It is from this home base that they are shifting gears back to life in America: looking for work, transportation, cell phone plans, and eventually a new home.

Until they do find their new homestead, we’re so fortunate to have them in ours.

You see, my dad has taken on the mantle of Chief Officer of Wrestling, giving my back a break so that the kids still get their daily allowance of craziness in the play room. He’s surprised me by mowing and edging the lawn on some particularly warm days. He’s also started reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to the kiddos to fire up their imaginations properly, with the words of an Oxford-trained author. And even when he isn’t reading from a book, the man is a prime storyteller.

In these past few weeks, my mom has kicked me out of the kitchen on at least 17 occasions, taking on my chore of washing the dishes. She has occupied (and quieted) kids in the morning before my wife and I wake up. She’s even figured out how to discipline the kiddos in the same gentle way she did when I was small, despite this new trio ganging up on her at times. She’s made impromptu trips to the grocery store so that the wife and I don’t have to worry about it. She prays by my daughter’s bedside as she lays her down. Oh, and she’ll be watching the kids this evening as I head out on a photography gig.

Many people have asked how Erica and I are holding up with my parents living with us. They ask with concerned looks on their faces. Those looks convey their expectations of family dysfunction, reversion to parent-child dynamics, crossed boundaries, crowded space, and broken communication. I get it. It takes some doing to fit my parents into our nest, but those concerns don’t line up with what we’re living. My parents’ homecoming has proven to be a breath of fresh air.

Perhaps my wife’s whispered words to me convey it best:

“You know, I’ll be really sad when they move out again.”

Our nest is quite full now that my parents have flown back in. I’m so very glad they’re here.

(Today’s featured photo of my mom and dad was taken on the Himalayas Miniature Golf Course in St. Andrews, Scotland one wonderful, blustery day.)

Hang this photo on your wall

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What are some of your favorite memories of spending time with your parents? Sound off in the comments below!


  • Kathryn 06-06-2016

    Beautiful story, PJ. What a sweet tribute to your parents.

    • P.J. Oswald 06-06-2016

      Thanks for reading, Kathryn! They are some pretty cool folks…

  • Laurie Fox 06-06-2016

    Love, Love, Love all the Oswald’s!!

  • Ann Benson 06-06-2016

    Welcome home, Phil & LeeAnn!!

  • Natalie 06-06-2016

    PJ, this is beautiful! Your parents are truly incredible people and I am proud to call them aunt and uncle!

    • P.J. Oswald 06-06-2016

      Thanks so much, Natalie! I hope to see you and your growing family some day soon!

  • Danny Moen 06-06-2016

    Great perspective PJ…I feel the same blessing when my parents stay with me. Doesn’t have to be dysfunctional 🙂 enjoy the time! I have one saved voicemail on my phone and feel guilty every time I’ve seen it recently…so I’ll be calling soon 🙂

    • P.J. Oswald 06-06-2016

      I’m not alone, am I? I’ll look forward to your call, and let’s be good dads ourselves, eh?

  • Reply

    Wonderful to hear of your parents homecoming. Give that sweet Mom of yours a hug from us and your dad a “Hey!” from the Esposito Family 🙂

  • Libby Beaty 07-04-2016

    We know your parents from Delhi and love them both dearly. So special to read about their time with you now. I know they are loving every minute! They are a blessing!

  • Alex Hayes 03-27-2017

    P.J.- you likely wouldn’t remember me, but I was part of the 1st B of Ashland family when your parents were called there in the mid-80’s. Your father had a profound influence on me as a young teen, and I’m thankful for their eternal investment while you all were there. I’m glad to see them still serving and enjoying life together!

    • P.J. Oswald 03-27-2017

      Hey there Alex! Strangely enough, my mom was riding along in our car as I saw your comment. She was pretty excited to hear your words, and she’ll pass them on to my dad as well. I’m glad that he was such a meaningful player in your life as well!

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