Family Matters

After half a term of cramming for tests, going to countless club activities, and completing piles of homework for many students, Family Weekend offered a much needed time to decompress. Many of us got to go home or had our parents come to visit us on campus. We put down our pencils and books, dusted off our hands, and spent time with those we loved. But Family Weekend was also a reminder that Andover students need to proactively communicate with our families throughout the school year.

Although I am a day student and see my parents every day, I’ve realized that a majority of the conversations I’ve had with my family since I started at Andover have been superficial and have lacked the open warmth they had during the summer. Right now, my parents and I greet each other with a “Good morning” and we end with “Bye” or “See you later” once I’m dropped off on campus. Our text messages are a continual cycle of “Can you come pick me up now?” “Okay,” and “I’m eating at school today” “Okay.” When I eat dinner at home, someone usually brings up a topic but the other will answer with a simple “Mmm…,” “Yes,” or “No.” The table then goes silent, and the only people talking are on the television screen.

This Family Weekend, however, my family’s discussions noticeably changed. The extra day off lifted some weight off my shoulders, so I could think beyond what I had to do for homework. Dinner wasn’t just a time to put food into our mouths. Instead, my family and I discussed the presidential election, debated the legalization of marijuana, chatted about philosophy, and weighed the pros and cons of editing D.N.A. Afterwards, I was completely relaxed and happy that we had talked for so long and in such detail about things that mattered to us.

My communication with my family on a school-day basis, I now know, is hardly communication at all. If I make an effort to talk, my parents reciprocate immediately with enthusiasm. This weekend, I realized they deliberately avoided initiating conversation because they were hesitant to disturb me. This notion surprised me, and I felt guilty for not only neglecting to reach out but for being unaware.

Homework and extracurriculars are certainly factors that prevent me from communicating with my family. There are times when I avoid talking to my parents because I don’t want to end up unloading my stress onto them. I want to come across as independent and strong but I have to understand that I shouldn’t ever be too busy or too proud to have a thoughtful conversation with my parents. Instead of asking my parents “How was your day today?” and leaving it at that, I should continue with “Really? What do you think about such and such?” and so on to tell my parents indirectly that I’m willing to talk with them, that I’m here to listen to them.

In addition to initiating conversation, I, as a day student, can be the one who washes the dishes and helps out at home more often. I can make my dad his daily cup of tea; I can look my mom in the eye and asks if she’s feeling okay. All of us can send our parents a short text to ask how their day went and to tell them a little about ours. We can all make an effort to understand each other’s feelings. The difficult part about communication is for both parties to be mindful enough to realize that they should reach out.

The difference between a meaningful, sincere conversation and a superficial one has a drastic impact on the way I end up feeling. This Family Weekend brought that to my attention. Too often, I use the excuse of working and planning ahead to reassure myself that I’m not being inconsiderate towards my family. So even if it’s not Family Weekend, pick up the phone and give your parents a call. Send a letter, regardless if it’s a few sentences or a few paragraphs. Connecting with the people we love and care about is not another pile of work on our back; in fact, even the shortest conversation is relaxing and can provide a great sense of happiness.