How to Bring Your Lofty Expectations Down to Earth for Family Weekend

You dropped junior off at college about six weeks ago. Separating from him was challenging but on the trip home you soothed yourself with the thought that you’d be returning to campus to see him in a month or two for Parents’ Weekend or Family Weekend or whatever your school chooses to call it.

What to expect on Family Weekend when you visit your freshman

You get home and there’s a hollow kind of emptiness in your house and in your heart. You struggle with the new normal but little by little you begin to master it or even delight in some aspects of it. Meanwhile, your child is also struggling to adjust to her new school. As the weeks go by, everyone is beginning to acclimate when suddenly you realize that Family Weekend is almost upon you.

You can’t wait to see him and you are quite certain that he can’t wait to see you, but here’s the fundamental problem with Family Weekend: expectations are unrealistically high and those expectations create unnecessary stress. You can avoid the sting of disappointment by lowering the bar on your expectations. Let’s start by talking about what not to expect.

It’s All About the Expectations: How to Manage Yours for Family Weekend 

1. Don’t expect to be spending what we like to refer to as “quality time” with your child. You may get time but the time you get will likely be frenzied and rushed, not really the stuff of great quality.

2. Don’t expect your child to wake up at the crack of dawn on the morning of your arrival, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to charm you over breakfast. Nineteen year olds don’t do early. In fact, his current bedtime overlaps with your current waking time so he will definitely not be joining you for breakfast.

3. Don’t expect him to know what he wants to do during the weekend. He hasn’t made any plans but has a vague, somewhat fuzzy notion that he wants to do something. Unfortunately, he has absolutely no idea what that something is. Notwithstanding the fact that the school has graciously supplied a fourteen-page pamphlet listing activities ranging from a tour of the city to a juggling showcase, you will inevitably wind up aimlessly roaming the campus along with all the other befuddled families.

4. Don’t expect your child to introduce you to any of the hundred people she says, “Hey, how ya doing?” to as she wanders the campus with you. Introducing your old parents to your new friends is so 1980s and honestly beyond humiliating.

5. Don’t expect her to look up from her phone more than once an hour. She is involved in a plethora of virtual “conversations” that must not be disrupted for any reason whatsoever.

6. Don’t expect him to acknowledge that you have traveled hundreds of miles or spent thousands of dollars to see him.

7. Don’t expect her to have cleaned her room in anticipation of your arrival. Oh wait, that IS what the room looks like after it’s been cleaned. As a corollary to this do not expect her to hide the red solo cups that litter her dorm room floor. After all she thinks you were born yesterday and that you believe her when she says she’s been drinking water out of those cups.

So, what can you expect?

8. Expect to look at him, breathe a sigh of wonder and feel a slight tug at your heart, because he’s grown up. Even in six shorts weeks he’s changed. He is building a life here without you and you are most decidedly on his turf now.

9. Expect to feel a slight pinch. That pinch is the dawning of the realization that this is life as it was meant to be. This is the first of many microscopic tears, certainly not in the love you have for each other, but in the fabric that binds you.

Now that your expectations have been reset, go forth and have a fantastic Family Weekend.

Photo Credit: Larry Miller


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About Helene Wingens

Helene Wingens has always been passionate about painting pictures with words. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in psychology and three years later from Boston University School of Law with a Juris Doctor. In a year long clerkship for an appellate judge Helene honed her writing skills by drafting weekly appellate memoranda. She practiced law until she practically perfected it and after taking a brief twenty year hiatus to raise her three children she began writing a personal blog Her essays have been published in: Scary Mommy, Kveller, The Forward, and Grown and Flown where she is Managing Editor. You can visit Helene's website here

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