It seems like only yesterday that many of us said a bittersweet goodbye to our adult children as they headed off to college, trade school or a first “real” job. Like any new chapter, it brought mixed emotions: For parents, perhaps grief, pride and relief; for young adults, a sense of exhilaration tinged with fears and hopes. That was fall. In this springtime of COVID-19, many have come home. After a lifetime of preparing to leave the nest, their return has been jarringly sudden: Campuses closed. Workers furloughed or laid off. Construction and building halted.
Again, mixed emotions: Most of our kids would rather be at college or work, seeing friends and, well, actually leaving the house. They have had to cope with the challenges of online classes or working remotely, and a loss of hard-earned independence.
Even we parents who secretly rejoiced at this unexpected turn of events may ask ourselves: “Do they think the dishes put themselves away?” “Why is our food budget twice as high as the mortgage payment?”
But if we parents look past the driveway that looks like a used car lot and the crumbs on the counter, and our kids can forgive us for occasionally forgetting they are no longer 12 and failing to buy enough potato chips, we can find new ways to connect with one another during this unplanned together time.
Indeed, this “bonus time” together offers many opportunities to reconnect and make lasting memories:
Cooking and eating together.
My adult son, always a cooking show fan, treated us to his trademark homemade meatballs. Baking bread, trying new recipes or even just washing the dishes can be good opportunities to laugh, talk and be together.
Take a walk in the park, participate in a virtual 5K or dust off the bikes and hit the trails. Variations on that theme: visit a cemetery and share stories about deceased family members; support local restaurants by grabbing takeout and having a picnic; try something new like ultimate Frisbee or disc golf.
Dig out the old family VHS tapes and have a “watch party,” before sending them in to get them transferred to DVD or another format. Spring for a new release (if you can agree on a film!).
Find ways to help others.
Sew masks together, choose a charity to contribute to, expand a bit on grace before dinner to give thanks and pray for family members and friends who are ill or facing unemployment because of the coronavirus.
As state economies gradually reopen and colleges develop strategies for safe starts in the fall, we have reason to hope that these days of sheltering in place are only temporary. Just as those first 18 years went by “in the blink of an eye,” so will these weeks and months. Let’s make them count!
Pope Francis’ prayer for newly reunited families
May the Lord help them discover new ways, new expressions of love, of living together in this new situation. It is a wonderful occasion for rediscovering true affection with creativity in the family. Let us pray for families so that relationships in the family at this time always thrive for the good.
Pat Mish is managing editor of Faith Grand Rapids magazine.