Growing up and giving thanks

College students enter the holiday season with the weight of adulthood

The holiday season can be a very hectic time, even for college students, who would probably prefer to go toe-to-toe with a calculus problem than figure out how to navigate the awkward transition from the kid’s table to adulthood.

We can all remember the Grinch’s heart growing three times in size when he discovered that “Christmas is not just about the presents,” our Sunday School teacher ruining the Easter Bunny to tell us the true meaning of the cross or the “Star Spangled Banner” being played on the Fourth of July as the fireworks erupt, but not all holidays are as easy to define.

Going through elementary school, I could never fully understand the reason behind Thanksgiving. My teachers seemed to imply we celebrated the fact that our forefathers didn’t know how to grow their own vegetables. My parents said we celebrated being together with family, despite the stress produced from inviting all blood relatives to one chaotic gathering.

HOME — The transition into adulthood is obvious during the holidays. Google Images

HOME — The transition into adulthood is obvious during the holidays. Google Images

As a kid, I simply got through the awkward going-around-the-table-saying-what-we-are-thankful-for by focusing on the next two weeks of leftovers. This year, I have a new strategy.

Anytime a holiday break comes around, we tend to get almost too excited to see our family again.  After all, it has been a long time since summer, and we miss those people who raised us – and maybe even our siblings too — but going back is never what we want it to be.

The first day or two can be great to see them again, but by the end of the week we are almost longing for our inconsiderate professors and heavy textbooks. Why?

Things change. The dynamic of parent and child begins to take a critical twist when we leave for college, as we are hopefully becoming adults.

Although going home for Thanksgiving break will probably turn out to be stressful, and possibly even annoying, it can be a blessing in disguise.

Going from a utopia where you don’t have to check in every hour with Mom when you’re out to being asked to help Dad pull weeds in the yard can be very confusing.

Home can be almost too much of a ‘blast from the past’, too accurate and too unsettling. We feel like adults here on campus, free from the restraints of parents, but going back home for break is like putting the shackles back on.

But the tension is necessary to break away from dependence to independence, and it is important for both child and parent. It can be hard to make the break and become an adult, and even harder for our
parents to let go.

Some instances can be more problematic, as I have personally shown my parents for the last 21 years of my life that I am not ready for adulthood. My parents look at me and see the toddler who shoved pears in the toaster, the adolescent teenager who repeatedly got in trouble for climbing over ceiling tiles at school, and the want-to-be adult who thought it would be a good idea to take on boxing as a sport. They have seen me at my worst and best and want to make sure I get the worst out of my system before I am dubbed an adult and sent into the world on my own.

They see us for who we were, as they were present for our upbringing but have missed the last few months of maturity we achieved living on campus.

This Thanksgiving break can be the time to show who we have become, but no substantial change is easily accepted.

I count my blessing this Thanksgiving, and the opportunity to begin a more matured relationship with my family is high on the list — right behind stuffing and pumpkin pie.

Rice is an opinion writer.

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