It’s finally here. The long weekend you’ve had circled on your calendar and in your mind since summer. The three or four full days when your mama molecules will be at full charge once again from being in close proximity to their counterparts, which are contained in the body of your college student who has (selfishly) kept them from their natural bond for months.
The pantry is stocked with enough of their favorite foods to last for weeks; their bed is made with clean — possibly even new — sheets; and you haven’t passed the family pet without saying, “guess who’s coming home?” in a high pitched voice in days.
The first holiday break that brings your child back home is, for you, undoubtedly more exciting than pretty much any other event you’ve experienced in your life thus far. It’s true, and it’s okay. You may have survived the first few months of separation, and you may have even fallen into a new normal, but that doesn’t mean the prospect of having them home, in living color, where you can touch them, isn’t cause for ridiculous celebration. But beware. As with most momentous events, there’s danger in the over planning, and even more in the execution.
Here are a few important Don’ts to keep in mind when your college kid is home for the holidays.
Don’t monopolize their time. You may think that not seeing them for three or more months guarantees you the right to keep them to yourself (it totally does, BTW) but much like you had to do in August, let them go. Let them go out with friends, let them have one on one time with their siblings, even let them be by themselves if that’s what they want. Because guess what? You’ll probably find that being open about sharing your time will actually make them more likely to want to spend more of it with you. #reversepsychologyFTW
Don’t nag or criticize them. For the past few months they’ve been making independent choices. Respect that and let the little things go, unless it’s wet towels on the floor or dried cereal in a bowl sitting four inches from the dishwasher, obviously. Having said that…
Don’t let them walk all over you. I know you’re happy to have them home and maybe feel like you’re walking on eggshells to make sure not to get in their way, but don’t forget that there’s a fine line between respecting them, their plans, and their newfound independence and being a doormat. Just because you miss them like crazy doesn’t mean you can’t call them on their crap. You’ve been a tightrope walker for years now. Keep your balance.
Don’t forget to have the younger sibling put back all the clothes she’s borrowed without asking. Trust me on this one. The weekend will take a hard turn if you don’t.
Don’t expect them to sleep less than 10 hours a night. When college kids come home, they’re a lot like babies: they eat a lot, sleep a lot, and you spend most of the time either being enamored with them or wanting to slam your head against the wall. You’ve certainly been down this road before, but the good news is now that you aren’t breastfeeding or responsible for watching them you can drink. Speaking of which…
Don’t let them see all the empty wine bottles you’ve been “collecting” since they left. That can be our little secret.
Don’t over plan. Planning to go to all the favorite restaurants and shop at all the favorite stores during your allotted time during holiday break? Yeah, I’ve been there. And let me tell you, other than a few pounds and possibly a snazzy pair of boots, there’s nothing much to gain. Don’t spend all your valuable time shuttling from one place to the next. They’ve had a crazy semester; let them relax. Besides, doing nothing gives you more time to stare at them.
Don’t spoil them. HAHAHA. As if.
Don’t remind them of their absence. Let’s face it: life without them moves on and by now you’ve made some memories they aren’t a part of, especially if there’s still a younger sibling around. Be careful about overdoing it on the inside jokes they don’t get, the stories about things they weren’t there for, and how much you love having their empty bed to use when their father’s snoring gets out of control.
Don’t forget you’re not empty nesters for the weekend. (i.e., Don’t walk around naked.)
Don’t expect too much. Like it or not, the kid you dropped off a few months ago is a bit different — maybe a little, but maybe a lot. Things very well may feel the same when he or she comes back home, but they might not. It’s hard not to expect it to be a perfect weekend, but don’t forget you’re all still navigating this twisty road, so it’s a good time to just coast.
And, perhaps most importantly:
Don’t take one minute for granted.