Section: Opinion

Family Weekend: an opportunity for students and their parents to reflect on their time (and growth) apart

The College has a clever knack for planning Family Weekend so it falls on the exact moment when campus is the pinnacle of postcard perfection. Friday, especially, had an exuberant, blustery beauty about it, an exuberance only matched by the enthusiastic reunion of loved ones evident throughout the day. But now that the diminished whirlwind of excitement seems to have taken with it the majority of the orange and yellow from the trees, we can observe the bareness of the limbs and take time to reflect upon the effects of our visitors.

I have a slight disclaimer to offer up: I am a sophomore who has twice gone stag during Family Weekend. As much as my family would relish the opportunity, when weighing the pros and cons of my family making the trek from Oregon, both years it was mutually decided that the cons won out. However, though I’ve not experienced familial visitation firsthand, I have observed the family-student dynamic and become fascinated by the interactions I have seen, and found parallels to my remembered experience of navigating the end of the initial “freshman eparation.”

For many this weekend, for many, marks the first in-person exchange since the I-guess-this-moment’s-actually-here momentousness of the orientation drop-off. In many ways, the time between these events feels undeniably like “before” and “after.” Family Weekend, or whenever that first reunion with our family occurs, brings to light the latent growth that has unknowingly shaped us and forces us to acknowledge we have been distanced: in time, space, and understanding.

I remember the startling strangeness I felt as a first year coming home for Thanksgiving. I saw my family’s expectant faces through the revolving glass doors of our comparably pathetic “international” airport, which was peppered with only a handful of arrivals and their families. It was wonderful to see them, truly, because it should always be a blessing to see once again the faces of those you care for most in the entire world.

I knew this on one level, yet I couldn’t deny the unswallowable feeling of their foreignness — or was it my own? Could I possibly have outgrown my home? This situation causes a person to reevaluate the very meanings of “home” and “family.” Did growing to love a new place and group of people mean, consequently, that I loved my past any less?

I have since realized that this phenomenon is not a matter of changed love, but a matter of changed perspective. This first reunion is an occasion inevitably laden with an implicit awkwardness. It may be alarming to feel this way with one’s own family, but I’ve come to believe it is a natural part of the mind-boggling process commonly known as life.

Ultimately, it is not only the students who must grapple with these changes: the parents, too, are forced to come to terms with the new chapter of their child’s life in which they are cast in only a supporting role. There were likely quite a few parents posing for a soon-to-be-cherished picture with their child on Middle Path, wondering if the man or woman they had their arm around could possibly be the same creature whose diapers they had once changed and whose milk moustaches they had once lovingly wiped away.

This weekend I observed many folks grappling to understand change, which inevitably leads to moments of frustration, confusion, and disconnect: just do not allow these emotions, as fleeting as the seasons, to become permanent. I saw many beautiful colors and much affection on campus this weekend; however, the beauty of parent’s and student’s mutual striving to love in spite of change far outweighed any temporal beauty of Middle Path’s fall foliage. The turning of the leaves and the limbs they eventually leave bare is not cause for sadness if one only remembers the snow, a different kind of wonder, which the winter will bring.

Brianna Levesque ’17 is from Medford, Ore. She can be reached at


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