Family Weekend: More About the Parents Less About the Kids

Photo Credits to Michelle S. Lee ‘16 |The Smith gate welcomes all visitors to Smith this coming weekend.

Photo Credits to Michelle S. Lee ‘16 |The Smith gate welcomes all visitors to Smith this coming weekend.

Michelle S. Lee ’16
Assistant Opinions Editor

It’s here. That time of the year when the proud parents of Smith (some alumnae themselves) drive up to Northampton to celebrate a weekend with their beloved college students, some missing home dearly, others just beginning to establish one on campus.

To be honest, I wasn’t particularly fond of the concept of Family Weekend at first. I had been ready to live my first year in college with great independence since I first went to summer camp in the 6th grade, and just two months in college I didn’t see the appeal of any first-year having their parents over. But this lack of compassion probably stemmed from the fact that, rationally speaking, my parents couldn’t visit me anyway.

Last year, I texted my mother, telling her that my friends’ parents were coming to visit them for the weekend. Perhaps it was a premature symptom of empty nest syndrome, but she automatically texted back, “Should I visit? I can still book a flight.” This was two weeks before the event, and I laughed it off as a typically impulsive of her to even suggest that. I was hardly homesick; why would I need to see them now when I’d be home in another two months anyway?

But the weekend rolled around. If you’ve ever been family-less during Family Weekend, you’d know it’s a pretty quiet weekend with the occasional tagging along of family dinner with friends whose parents want to nourish their children with something more than Dominos or Teapot. It was in this manner I was able to substitute Smith dining with Noho dining for a weekend, thanks to the generosity of parents who offered to take me along.

While eating some of the best (and largest) chicken parmesan dishes of my life, I asked my friend’s parents about themselves. One was a practicing doctor, another was a Smith alumnae herself, another a schoolteacher. But what struck me most was that they were all inherently interested in what student life was like for me, an extension of their daughter’s new world at Smith. While catching up with her since the last time they talked, my friend’s parents also asked me about my life – where am I from, do I like my classes, do we find stuff to do on the weekends?

Now, of course they were also just making polite conversation. But it occurred to me at that dinner, that this weekend wasn’t about students getting to see their parents – it was about parents getting to see their children. Though we spend day after day through the routine schedule of classes and extracurricular, our parents spend mere hours ruminating through the footsteps of our academic and social lives on weekends like these.  We might be used to dreadful hours in Neilson and the long lines checking mail in the Campus Center, but our parents can only relish glimpses of our lives, however grueling, and piece them together to gain a complete picture of us to take back in the other 188 days or so we spend at Smith.

Particularly for families where the Smithie is the first in the family to go to college, and most especially for first-generation Smithies as a whole, this is the  real-time follow-up of a new chapter in their daughter’s lives. It is watching, however clichéd it may be, their little girl transform into an adult woman, in the setting that will continue to shape her consistently. Though it’s not much to offer directly to parents who’ve come up to Northampton to give us filial support, we as students can show them the picture of who we are growing to become, in good faith that the parents who’ve dedicated so much of their lives for us will be rooting for us on our time here.

Though it’s doubtful most parents intentionally magnify it to this level when they drive down Paradise Pond on a crisp October day, it’s something to keep note about as a student. If your parents are coming, show them the docks, your classrooms, buildings they aren’t so familiar with. Even if they aren’t, take the extra time away from friends this weekend to Skype your parents or in my case, teach them how to use Skype.

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