By Chris Little
My college freshman was home for Fall Break last weekend. It was lovely to have him hanging around, to get a good look at him and catch up on everything he’s been up to (well, probably not everything—and that’s okay!). I do feel like I learned a few things that will help me next time he comes home:
Be patient. It took a while for my freshman to re-acclimate to being at home. He commented the first morning that he felt like he was just visiting a place where his family happened to live. That was a little heart-breaking—I felt in a deep way like he was really gone, that he could never truly come home again. But false alarm: it wasn’t long at all before he was lounging on the couch in his sweatpants, just like the good old days.
Be patient! It took a while for me to re-acclimate to having my kid at home! I’ll admit I was near tears several times over the weekend thinking about how great it was to have him around … and how soon he’d be gone again. I know we’re not supposed to take our loved ones for granted, but I’ll tell you, treasuring every moment can be emotionally exhausting.
Be even more patient! My house pretty much immediately returned to pre-college levels of clutter and disorder. Lots of deep breaths … and reminding myself I’d have plenty of time to clean up after he headed back to school.
Beware of over-scheduling. He may have had the weekend off, but he still had lots of homework to do. I’m glad we didn’t pre-schedule any activities and social events.
Be prepared to cook. My freshman reported being thoroughly sick and tired of eating out, even if it was just at the dining hall. Believe it or not, he really craved my cooking! I was ready with a menu of his favorites—in fact, I sent him back to school with tubs of “leftovers” I’d cooked especially for him, including some of his favorite desserts.
Make a (short) to do list. We spent one afternoon getting stuff done: haircut, flu shot, underwear shopping, and laundry. That felt good.
Make some coffee. My kid has always been a night owl, a tendency that’s been exaggerated by living in a dorm. It was fun to stay up late talking—well, trying to. Next time I’ll brew some caffeine and be more alert!
Take a deep breath. The most reassuring thing I learned is that we’re all still connected. We’re still a family.
It’s over way too soon! I’m already counting the days until Thanksgiving.
How about you more experienced empty-nesters, who’ve seen kids come and go on Fall Break or other vacations from college—what are some tips for the rest of us?