December 2018

Home for the Holidays: Re-Feathering the Nest

Author: Lynnie Leavenworth

The Friday, Saturday, and Sunday following Thanksgiving Thursday may be three of my all-time favorite consecutive days of the year. While I enjoy a turkey-cranberry-stuffing sandwich and have made a point to spend my dollars locally in the shops where I know the owners and love their aesthetics, for me, it is not about the food or the shopping. These three magical days are like the wind-up of a holiday Jack-in-the-Box, locking in plans for the coming weeks and making lists, lots of lists: gifts to buy, holiday cards to buy-personalize-mail, parties, menus, grocery lists, travel plans, and on and on and on. The anticipation is exhilarating and fuels the fun for the coming weeks. This year our 20-something progeny will be arriving soon for her four-week break from the world of academia, and for those of us whose nests have been empty, or emptier, for a few months, or even years, who are about to experience this particular blessing … well, we have things to do.

At the top of the list: PREPARE GUEST ROOM. In the spirit of full disclosure, what we now refer to as the guest room is our daughter’s former bedroom—a room I am certain she envisions filled with fluffy quilts, photos of friends scattered about, piles of treasured books, and her acoustic and electric guitars standing guard on either side of her cozy bed. This room now ebbs and flows between a) craft room, b) storage facility, and c) exercise equipment graveyard. I’m not sure there is even a spot to perch on the edge of the bed, much less room to snuggle into the mountain of pillows she is likely anticipating.

We should not encourage the idea that life comes to a standstill for mom and dad when the chicks fly the coop, and I don’t expect that our daughter thought her room would be preserved in perpetuity to honor her former life in it. However, its current state of confused identity will not convey the message that we are happy to have her home for the holidays … and we are oh so happy she is coming home.

Giving children the idea that life continues in their absence serves them well in the long-run—less worry and guilt about mom and dad being lonely or bored in their empty nest years. No need to hide the crafts or the exercise equipment (you never know when someone may get the urge). However, the to-do list should include moving storage items to another room, the attic, basement, or a climate-controlled storage unit down the road (the juice is worth the squeeze here). And bring on the familiar: a mountain of pillows, fresh sheets, familiar quilt, and those guitars. GUEST ROOM READY—check.

Holiday cards are a big part of my Thanksgiving weekend list-making. Mr. Honey and I make a point of choosing the family’s annual card together. Admittedly, I do the signing, note writing, addressing, stamping, and mailing; however, we enjoy the choosing together. Over the years we have collaborated on selecting the annual picture of our daughter that is tucked inside each card. This year, as I sorted through last year’s holiday card database, adding new friends, changing addresses for those who have moved, and crossing through, but never deleting those we lost this year, I asked myself, “Is it still appropriate to include our daughter on the card?” In her seventh year out in the world, I am not sure about “appropriate,” but it doesn’t feel “right” to exclude her, either. Here are my thoughts. If the kids are still in school, even if living away from home, a family card is a nice way to send seasonal wishes and keep everyone up-to-date. Even if the kids are past their teen years, a picture is still appreciated. That being said, if the children have a significant other or children of their own, allow them to share holiday wishes, stories, and photos of their choosing from their hand and their return address. HOLIDAY CARDS—check.

Your children’s holiday hiatus may rock the status quo when it comes to stocking the pantry. Since the chicks flew the coop, you and Mr. Honey may have found that splitting a chicken breast and tossing a salad is the perfect accompaniment to your daily happy hour of cocktails and noshy bits. Now you may find your once-ravenous collegiate has become a nibbler, or the prodigious grazer now has a hollow leg to fill. Before the holiday homecoming, give a call and make a list. Ask what you should stock-up on … coffee, juice, eggs, fruit, veg, snacks, treats, etc. Don’t be surprised if the list consists of power bars and energy drinks; these may be their go-to at school, despite the expensive meal plan you purchased at the beginning of the semester. As the holidays roll on, and as family and friends descend, don’t despair; your list-making abilities will keep everyone well-fed. GROCERIES—check.

It may come as a revelation that while living independently at school, your offspring may be ill-equipped to return home where there are house rules related to curfews, cell phone etiquette, car sharing, bathroom sharing, daily chores, family responsibilities, etc., that don’t jibe with their new way of living. You have heard it before; choose your battles. Of course, if there are deal-breakers, communicate, communicate, communicate. Listen to each other and compromise. Everyone is navigating new territory.

Taking the Thanksgiving weekend to schedule and prepare for the upcoming holiday season is a magical time for me: planning for time with family and friends, scheduling what’s most important, celebrating each other and our traditions, and welcoming home those we have missed, and loved, and encouraged while they have been away. It’s a bit like holding your breath while waiting for Jack-in-the-Box to pop his lid. I can hardly wait for it all to unfold.

Lynnie Leavenworth is a writer, blogger, and empty-nester who is happily in the midst of re-feathering her nest … literally and figuratively.

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