Hey, took me 32 years…
Seriously, I think that’s what college is for. Right at the time when a kid can’t stand his/her parents, he gets the opportunity to spread his wings. Depending on the general atmosphere into which s/he is thrust, it can do a lot for helping him/her form his/her sense of dependence or independence, i.e., if they’re living on their own and paying some of their own expenses, they learn responsibility quick, but if Mom and Dad pay for everything and all they do is party party party, then they’re not learning that much. Don’t get me wrong - I think parents should help out a kid, but there are limits, beyond which a kid is just a spoiled brat.
But then there’s another change, which, unfortunately, usually seems to fall a few years after graduating college, and that’s when the child realizes s/he is now an adult, and that his/her parents are adults themselves, and the relationship between the two begins to more concretely change from parent/child to friend, or adult/adult.
My family has always been close, and my parents have been very good at being supportive without being smothering - I always got to choose what I wanted to do, and they just helped me do it (i.e., marching band, extracurricular activities, what have you). I spent my first year at college commuting from home (and it was a long commute), and it was tough - not only was my mother going through menopause, but college changes you - first time away from your life-long friends, thrown into a situation where you meet people from outside your own neighborhood from different backgrounds, cultures, hell, even countries. So while I was dealing with that, plus dealing with my mother, plus coming out to myself and my friends, it was, shall we say, a stressful time. My second year of college I transferred to another school, and spent two years living off-campus on my own (at that point my folks’ money had run out, so it was student loans and work my way through college). Those two years gave me the sense of independence and responsibility I wanted, but at the same time, I learned to appreciate living at home a lot more.
So when I moved back home after school I promised myself I wouldn’t move out again until I knew it would be permanent - no more moving out, moving back, moving out. Well, that was like 10 years ago, and a lot’s happened during that time.
I would often get the reaction, “You’re 25/27/29/30 years old and still lving at home with your parents?!?!,” so there’s definitely some societal influence that living at home with your parents is a Bad Thing. But one of the things that I liked about my time at home was I was able to survive the initial trauma of moving back home after a year away, and after that I was able to live watching my parents change from parents to friends/mentors. And, to my parents’ credit, they very realistically let me live my own life - I came and went as I pleased, I did my own cooking, my own laundry, paid a little rent, and in return I helped with the upkeep of the house, chipped in with groceries, etc. Heck, for the past two years my mother let me use her car and we carpooled to work together.
Was it all easy? Hell, no! But my parents and I are enough alike to get along and different enough not to smother each other. Dad and I tend to butt heads a lot, but that’s normal (I mean, no matter how buddy-buddy we get, they always will still be my parents, ya know).
So is there a right time? No - every person and every relationship is different. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that kids leave for school when they do.