Parents have been emailing and calling me about going to their children\’s first family weekend. Family weekend is when the parents visit their children and college campus to see what life is like now that they are settling into their new routine and life away from home. Truth is, some aren\’t settled yet and that is normal. Parents aren\’t settled either. Siblings and grandparents are getting new footing. Change brings surprises in these new roles. So I thought these stories would be fun.

Good to remember: We, as parents, need to continually focus on our life and not theirs. We need to get support and motivation from our friends Lowering our expectations and “the way we always did it,” seems to reduce problems of hurt.

Family Weekend Preparations

“Hi sweetie, is there something you want me to bring next week to family weekend?”

The preparation and excitement includes the details, again, of flights, car rental, and hotel bookings. I ask my daughter,” Do I need a skirt? How cold is it there?” My inner dialogue of Packing gets interrupted when I glance at the clock. I have a client in twenty minutes. My husband checks in from work asking, “Hun, what time are you home tonight? Let\’s go out to eat.”

This visit is Family Weekend. I am headed to her new life as a junior, where she lives with female house mates off campus. I\’ll meet some of her friend\’s parents, as well as, sign up for mini-classes that are offered. I will see her decorated room and watch her meander from the kitchen to the living room, as she gathers her stuff and runs out the screen door, down the steps of that green porch I remember carrying suitcases and Tide up in August.

My focus is time with her, on her timing. She is performing three times during the weekend for parents, students, faculty and community in the oldest and best female (biased statement) acappella group on campus. Her working in the restaurant goes on, her social life engages her, and studying probably waits until Sunday night…..late.

“Mom, I know I have told you fifty times this week that the pre-performance is at our house. I really need help with the shopping and set up. My housemates will be here, too, but they are not in the performance.”

“No problem. Your town has food. She laughed. “I just have so much to do that weekend and we have 3 evening rehearsals. Got to go! Can\’t wait to be with you, mom.” “Oh can you bring my guitar? Maybe we can get a hike in, and not a flat one. I really missed you today, mom. Bye, love ya,” click goes the cell phone.

I am more relaxed this time because of experience. I can visualize where I will be spending the weekend, rather than visiting map quest.

My exuberance for her first hug is wordless. I am finally in the rental car, after waking at 4 a. m., landing at 5 p.m. Every time I am driving across the bridge toward her, I think it is just around the corner and it isn\’t.

I still have to hold the anticipation until I hear her yell, “MOM,” see her beauty, and get that squeeze. My smile is permanent for now!

Return from Family Weekend – Lots of Firsts…

I cried, but that\’s nothing new! Sitting cross legged on the hardwood floors of her rented Victorian house, filled with parents, siblings, and college kids, I listened and looked at these vibrant, talented, young women singing to us in their everyday jeans and T-Shirts.

I am on the count down…only one more family weekend and this too will end…another community fading out. Well, I will push that floating thought out the stained glass window and simply be here.

I see the changes in her face. She has always been a beauty inside and out. But, what do you expect a mom to say about her daughter?

I watched her put white, tea candles around, dahlias in glasses, fall leaves she gathered, placed on the staircase. She arranged fruits, cheeses, crackers on unmatched plates. The napkins were folded next to the matching paper plates.

Now, she is the hostess and entertainer. I am the invited guest.

Under the Big Top on campus, with the rain tapping above, they performed two shows for the community and entire campus. Sitting on folded chairs, I watched dancers, actors, singers on stage. Silently singing along, applauding on my feet, their youthful, artsy, passion filled me.

The next evening, I had another first. Sitting in a converted beautiful candle lit, Victorian House, with a guitarist playing, my daughter was my waitress.

Black shoes, black skirt, covered with a tied back, long, pin- striped apron, white shirt, topped with her rich, big, brown eyes and full crimson lips, she said, “would you like to hear the specials?” P.S. I gave her a 25% tip.

We sat on brown bar stools at our favorite lunch and gourmet shop the next day. It is always my returning feeling when I walk in and Trudy says, “You\’re back, good to see you again. How long are you staying?” I go there everyday. It is also, my last stop to get treats for the long flight back home.

Back at my daughter\’s house, we add some homey touches…a rug, white lights around the window, photos she took and a little green and white dish to drop her rings and keys.

Rainy days, so no hikes, but rain or shine, we shop, as do all the other parents you pass with dripping umbrellas on the streets of this quaint, friendly, small town.

Lucky me….another wonderful visit with my daughter and her friends.

“Bye, mom. I love you,” she sweetly says. I press my lips listening to her send me off with warmth. “Call me when you get home, mom.” We get one more hug in, “I love you, too. I will call you. I had a wonderful time with you and your friends. So proud of the life you are building. Take care, sweetie!”

New Learning

Penny, a mother of three, told me during our telephone consultation, that her daughter didn\’t want to call home because she thought her mom was in a bad mood. Penny said to her, “No I was not in a bad mood this morning when you called. Well then what was up with you, the daughter asked. She replied. I was sad when you called. Not angry or in a bad mood. Oh, the daughter said, sad is the same to me as in a bad mood. So why were you sad, mom? I had to cancel a trip that I wanted to attend. Glad we got to check out what was really going on by the sound of my telephone voice because I don\’t want it to be that you aren\’t calling because you don\’t want to deal with my sad or bad mood issues right now, Penny told her daughter.

“Mom, I just have so many changes here that I can\’t risk dealing with your issues. Sorry, mom that is how it is right now. Gotta go.”

May the baby steps we are all taking lead us to gratitude and to developing inner skills to handle changes that come our way.

Happy Family Weekend and Safe Travels Back Home,



Natalie Caine is the founder of Empty Nest Support Services. When her daughter was a senior in high school, she realized that as a soon-to-be “empty nester,” she would be undergoing a major life shift. Not wanting to confront this transition alone nor have her many friends face this abyss without strong support, she created a support services group, which quickly grew into a new career and an exciting full-time business.