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Easy College Meals to Prepare in AdvanceShari Bender
Here in this bright alcove in our kitchen, right by the sliding glass door that opens to our backyard, there used to be a little table.
You probably know the kind — it was made by Little Tykes and came with little powder blue chairs. This was the place where many snacks and meals were enjoyed by toddlers and small children. Home to art projects and kindergarten “homework.”
Now there is a proper table made of butcher block and black metal with regular-sized chairs. The little table has long since been relegated to the basement along with toys and other childhood belongings we just can’t part with. This big table is home to family meals, big kid homework, pizzas shared by college kids and their friends, and morning coffee enjoyed by a mom gratefully taking in the beautiful wooded view in the backyard.
Back then, our mornings were filled with sippy cups of juice (diluted with water), cuddly little ones in footie onesie pajamas, and Baby Einstein videos, Dragon Tales or some other sweet children’s show playing on the TV. We ate breakfast together at the little table and played with toys or in the big ball pit in the playroom. Some days we got ourselves out to music class or My Gym class or preschool. But much of our morning time was spent immersed in our playroom.
Now mornings look very different. Some days I’m blessed to sip coffee over FaceTime with my son or lose myself in a long phone conversation with my daughter as she cooks breakfast or walks to get coffee from her favorite coffeeshop. No more lingering with children in the playroom; I'm finding my own rhythm and routine again.
The days back then were tiring for sure, but they were also an adventure. We played on the swing set in our backyard, had picnic lunches in that same backyard, went to parks, fed ducks, ventured to the children’s museum and indoor play places. We ran errands together, and they played near me while I cooked or cleaned up. Days were filled with togetherness.
Now days may or may not have togetherness. When my college kids are home, we soak in time with each other. We might laze around the house, or head out to take walks, tidy up the garden, drive to the city or grab afternoon coffee.
But when they're busy doing their own thing, my days are filled with me figuring out mine — errands and connecting with friends, writing and working part-time at a preschool — where it feels a little like a trip back in time. Nuances of togetherness in the texts they send me, and I gratefully engage. “Can we talk while I walk to get coffee,” “Would you proofread a paper for me?” And other little lifelines of connection.
Nights used to be hectic yet oh so cozy and filled with love. Bubble baths and fleece pajamas followed by reading books aloud and singing lullabies. Then cuddles and sweet sleepy breathing and me often falling asleep in one of my little ones’ beds…drifting off because of my tiredness and also just the way being snuggled up to your babies lulls you into sleep.
Now that my kids are back at their respective colleges, that love and those cuddles are exchanged over the phone. I consider myself blessed that my kids still want that connection as we close out the day together. A Snapchats goodnight exchanged with my daughter has been our ritual for years. My son and I talk briefly to say our goodnights, and sometimes share a tidbit about the day. Hearing his voice amidst the quiet of the house, all snuggled in bed, I almost feel his presence through the phone.
Then and now...it may seem as if these seasons are worlds apart. But when you look at the common threads — love, connection, caring — they’re a lot closer than you might think.