Julie: When our kids were small, it was easy to keep peace in the nest. Mama and Daddy bird had the final say and that was it. Ah, little kids, little problems. Things got a little trickier as those baby birds grew into fledglings. As our kids grew and stretched their wings, they asserted their increasing independence and often challenged our rules and decisions. As young adults who have left the nest, they are more respectful when they return home, but things can still get a little tense as we are still their parents and they are still our kids.
John: We recently had the opportunity to have both of our out-of-state daughters home, one each on two consecutive long weekends. It was wonderful to have them here, back in their old bedrooms, sitting around chatting in our family room like in the old days. Along with the many aspects of their visit that delighted us, there were definitely a few irritating moments when they slipped back into their old behaviors. This isn’t the first time this has happened, nor will it be the last, but fortunately, we were all able to move beyond the tension fairly quickly so that the rest of the visit was truly memorable.
Julie: We have come up with 4 ways to help make the most of our kids’ visits home, create harmony, and have a great time:
1. Be clear about expectations. When we awoke to a messy kitchen and bathroom, we gently reminded them that we expect them to please clean up after themselves. It didn’t happen again.
2. Find the right balance between family and friends. Since they were home for only a few days, we wanted to maximize the time they had with extended family. We also, however, respected their desire to spend time with their old friends in the area. We carefully planned the weekends ahead of time, with their input, to find the right balance.
3. Put trust first, worry second. Each of our daughters asked to have one of our cars for evening outings while they were home. We readily agreed and also just as readily let them know that we wanted them to be careful and stay safe, especially as the pandemic rages on.
4. Plan for some quiet face-to-face time – just the three of us. We made sure to reserve a few unstructured hours where we could be together, just the three of us. We wanted them to know that time with them was still a very high priority for us. Whether chilling together on the couch, playing a game of cards, or hiking while enjoying the beautiful fall colors, we created the opportunity for great conversations to take place.
John: While we enjoy the freedom of having an empty nest, we have found that having the empty nest repopulated can be incredibly joyful and brings a lightheartedness to our relationship long after the kids are gone.