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Our Empty Nester’s Club Celebrated with a College Care Package Party

It all started at the pre-prom picture-palooza. The parents were chatting and celebrating, nervously anticipating what would happen a few short months later when our children would scatter across the country to colleges big and small.

While some still had younger kids at home, many of us were giddy with the prospect of becoming empty nesters. One of those parents said something along the lines of, “We deserve a party just for us after they all leave.” Others chimed in enthusiastically, and the next thing I knew, my husband and I had offered to host a party in the fall.

As the last of the college freshmen left—after an endless round of nightly goodbye parties—we decided it was time to make good on our promise from June.

College Care Package Party

Instead of just hosting a gathering to catch up and hear about how the kids were doing, we decided to host a “College Care Package Party,” an idea I had read about online.

In addition to the usual appetizers, drinks and dessert, we asked everyone to bring 18 duplicates of one item a college kid might enjoy receiving in a care package. I imagined parents might bring packets of hot chocolate, tea, and popcorn that we would divide up into 18 small treat bags, along with a personal letter for each kid from their parents.

Soon after the empty nesters club arrived (we were also nice enough to invite friends who still had a kid or two at home), we realized we were going to need bigger treat bags. Some people brought mini cereal boxes, chocolate bars, decks of cards, cough drops, and hand warmers. Some came with ramen noodles, packs of gum, and coffee mugs with our high school logo. And some had gathered envelopes, stamps, pretzels, cookies, and toiletries. Their creativity abounded!

Hilarity ensued as we loaded up the college goody bags. It was like grown up trick or treating. We all promised not to post anything on social media so the kids would be surprised when their packages arrived.

Staying Connected

Perhaps the best part of the night was reconnecting with parents we had talked to every week while our children were growing up and getting to know other parents better. It’s such a sudden change when you become empty nesters: no more PTO emails, no extra kids at the dinner table, and no more chatting on the sidelines with other parents.

This evening was the perfect antidote to the disconnect we had all been feeling.

Something tells me we’ll be having another evening like this before long. Aren’t final exams coming up soon?

Jessica Semel is a mother of three emerging adults who still enjoy receiving her care packages. 

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