Tag Archive | fall break

What I Learned on Fall Break


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?

Updates from the Emptying Nest: Getting Ready for Fall Break and Thanksgiving Vacation

4042911267_a4124b6191By Chris Little

This morning it’s just 23 days until my beloved first-born, now a bona-fide college freshman, comes home for his first Fall Break. And after that, just a month or so until Thanksgiving. It seems like I’m only beginning to get used to setting one less place at the dinner table, and already I’m thinking about how soon he’ll be back. (Hooray!) Here are some things I’m doing to get ready:

1. Talking with him about travel arrangements. I’m not looking at bus tickets though—he’s a big boy and he’s got a credit card, so he can do the actual planning and ticket buying. But I know he’s got his mind on other things (his studies, right?), so I’m doing a little friendly reminding (read: gentle nagging) so he’ll take a look at transportation options sooner rather than later. After all, bus seats fill up fast for weekend and holiday travel—not to mention plane seats, for those whose kids are further afield—and I’d like to avoid having to drive out to pick him up if I can.

2. And appointments. Okay this doesn’t matter so much to my son, who’s happy to slip into pretty much any friendly neighborhood barbershop when he needs a trim, but if you’ve got a suave son or daughter who’s committed to a particular hairstylist, you might remind him or her to call soon for that Thanksgiving-weekend appointment. The same goes for the orthodontist, physician, or dentist … we all know freshmen who get their wisdom teeth pulled the day after Thanksgiving—if yours needs to be one of them, getting an appointment early will save a hassle later.

photo (3)3. Planning a few favorite menu items. I know my son loves my chicken potpie and baked spaghetti casserole, and those lemon bars I make in the summertime, so I’m beginning to think about when I’ll be making them over his break. And I think I’ll pick up an extra set of food storage tubs so I can send him back to school with some leftovers to heat in his microwave…

4. Talking about activities. I certainly don’t want to fill up all his time, but is there anything special he’d like to do as a family, or as an extended family, while he’s home?

5. Managing my expectations. I’m pretty sure my dear freshman will be happy to see us when he gets home—but he’ll also be eager to check in with his high school buddies, and to sleep late in his own bed. Chances are we won’t spend hours and hours sitting cozily on the couch together with mugs of tea talking about his feelings and hopes and dreams. I can daydream about those conversations, but I’m trying to stay realistic: He might spend the weekend asleep or out of the house! I have to be okay with that, and so far I am.

It’s going to be great to have him home — to set four places around the table again! — but I’m sure it won’t be exactly how I imagine it. And it’ll go by so fast, and then he’ll be gone again. So these days I’m  enjoying looking forward to his visit, and doing what I can to make sure things go smoothly.

Of course I’d love to hear how more experienced empty-nesters approach vacations. What do you do to plan? How do you prepare? What are the best parts? The most challenging parts?

First image: Some rights reserved by lynn dombrowski. Second image: My dinner plates!