I had just come home for Christmas break. I had awoken from a glorious night’s rest in my bed. (Note: Not the twin-sized dorm room bed. MY bed. My stellar, queen-sized, everything-will-be-okay-if-I-just-keep-laying-in-this-bed bed.)
I plopped down on the living room couch to watch morning television (holla back, Kelly Rippa!) with a warm cup of coffee and a full bowl of cereal. All was right in the world.
Until I heard a quiet, yet stern decree from behind me: “Han. Cereal in the kitchen, please.”
I scoffed. I rolled my eyes. “Mom, I’m an adult. I won’t spill it.”
The request came again: “Food in the kitchen, please. You know the rules.”
And then I let it rip. “I’M AN ADULT! I GO TO COLLEGE! I CAN EAT FOOD WHEREVER I WANT!”
As soon as the words spewed out of my mouth, I knew how ironic they sounded. I was claiming to be an adult whilst protesting my breakfast-eating locations like a middle schooler.
Sadly, this wouldn’t be the last time I’d make such immature arguments. Having friends over without permission, not telling my parents where I was going, making my parents wait up for me when I didn’t come home at a decent hour: All of these became points of contention during school breaks. Instead of my time at home being relaxing and rejuvenating, it became a time of frustration and conflict.
As most upperclassmen can attest (and freshmen will understand come January), going home for breaks can be an interesting, if not a challenging time. So how do you navigate this time of transition with grace and charity? Based on my
failures experiences, here are a few tips to help you NOT be a total jerk when you go home for break:
1. Respect the family rules.
You’re probably returning to a household that still has the same rules and structure that existed when you left. Yes, everyone continued to grow and change while you were away at school (more on that later), but home rules still apply.
I KNOW you’re learning to be a fully functioning, coordinated adult who is capable of doing your own laundry and not spilling cereal all over the couch, but are you also growing in grace and humility?
Show your maturity by respecting your siblings and parents. If you know your parents stay up until you get home for the night, respect them by not making them stay up until your newly accustomed 3 a.m. bedtime. Other practical suggestions: Make your bed. Let them know where you’re going when you leave the house, and tell them if/when you’ll be home for dinner. Offer to help with chores. If you’re faithful and respectful to the order and expectations of home, you’ll have less unnecessary tension and way more fun spending time with your family.
2. Acknowledge new realities.
Since when did your baby brother grow a foot taller and get a girlfriend? Did mom start taking kickboxing classes? Who turned your bedroom into your dad’s guitar studio (and why can he still only play the first two chords of “Wagon Wheel”)?
Though you may not have been there to see it, the world continued to spin while you were away at college. It’s okay. In fact, it’s good. While home is still home, the people in it continued to grow and change over the past few months, just as you did. Because of that, your relationship with your parents and siblings will change.
There will be a time when you need to make some adjustments to your expectations of each other. If you need to revisit rules that existed when you were in high school but may not be appropriate for a college student, ask yourself how you can express your concerns, then clearly and kindly propose a change. Conversely, be willing to take on any new responsibilities that you may not have had in the past (doing your own laundry, getting your car serviced on your own, etc.). You don’t have to be a guest in your own home; you just have to learn how to be an adult who lives in your home.
And maybe consider joining in on mom’s kickboxing class. Meet your brother’s girlfriend and go to his end-of-year band concert. Sing along to dad’s terrible guitar playing and watch football with him. Live in the new reality with them, and invite them into the things you like, too. Your changing relationships can be a fun way to get to know each member of your family in a new way!
3. Pray. And be kind.
Of course the FOCUS missionary is going to advise you to pray. Duh. But in the same way your family has changed and grown since you’ve been gone, so have you.
Your family may not know that you’ve invested your time in getting to know Jesus Christ over the semester, and you’re going to need some major graces to show them. This may be the first time you’re challenged to be the kind of person that brings the same life and joy you have on campus to your family.
Before you head home, make a plan for when and where you’ll pray. And stick to it. If you’ve been growing in prayer and virtue over the semester, don’t let it all fall by the wayside when you get home. Get off Netflix, put on some real pants, and get yourself to the chapel for daily Mass or Eucharistic adoration. (Bonus points if you bring a sibling, parent or friend with you.) Use the 30 Days of WRAP plan. Pray the litany of humility every morning. The extent to which you make consistent and honest prayer a priority over the break is the direct extent to which love, peace and joy will flow out of you and into your family members’ lives. And that’s the gift everyone wants to receive.
So here’s to a school break full of old traditions, new memories and time filled with friends and family that’s good for the soul!