We expect this season in life will leave an indelible imprint both on our hearts and in our heads, for the good and the bad, forever. I suspect we can all agree this first six months of 2020 is turning out to be its own season that will go down in history books as a turning point across the globe, as well as in our own homes. Because of this, we encourage families to be careful not only but also to use this time to make our memories. We need to take every step to ensure that it becomes a moment that we can look back on and celebrate for what we have been able to accomplish in ourselves, our marriages and families, and in our communities.
What has this looked like for the Hughes Family? On consecutive weekends in March of this year, Carmen and I received word that the college campuses where two of our three children are students were closing due to ongoing concerns about the pandemic and that they would need to move home to continue their classes online for the remainder of the academic semester. With that news, I was off to Memphis in a rented van for a short turnaround trip to move our son Maxwell out of his dorm and then the following weekend off to the airport to pick-up our daughter Maya returning from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, thinking that she would return to her campus apartment in a couple of weeks. All of this happening while Carmen was working feverishly to complete the final components of her MBA.
Don’t get me wrong, while Carmen and I absolutely love and enjoy being around our children, we were also beginning to love and appreciate our newly found freedom as “empty-nesters” that had begun in August 2019. Having them home particularly for an extended period of time meant that our recently found freedom was gone. We went from not having to concern ourselves with what we were going to have for dinner that evening because the two of us could simply go out for dinner, bring something home, or meet friends for dinner somewhere to having to plan evening meals and making sure there was plenty of food in the house during the day for them. It also quickly became apparent that our Wifi network at home was not going to be adequate to meet our new demands for online classes, the need to conduct work from home, and recreation / entertainment streaming needs. A problem we had to quickly rectify to relieve the pressure that this issue was rapidly building.
As we grappled with this new normal, we were challenged with what to do with all this new family time. For us this meant streaming movies, playing games like Spades, Scrabble, and Pokeno, which in a weird sort of way presented unexpected opportunities for us to be re-introduced to one another. During our game time, we would find ourselves engaging in meaningful and challenging conversations about their experiences in college in terms of drinking, drug use, relationships, etc. Through our conversations, we found out that one of our children carried a deep-rooted animosity about an event that occurred within the family years ago and harbored some trust issues that we as parents needed to address. These discussions and family interaction also allowed us to learn more about each of our children’s maturity levels and "love languages". As a result, we have been able to discern that our children lean toward "words of affirmation" and "acts of service." With this knowledge, we are better equipped to interact with them as young adults that are more productive because the potential for conflict has been reduced. We also recognize the need for our role as parents to change from having the final say-so on all matters to more of counselors and advisors. We are excited to report that the advising is bi-directional, as we have learned quite a bit from our young adults in recent months… anything from a vegan lifestyle eating to creative financing to developing and sticking to a workout regimen.
Needless to say, the most recent events of police brutality in Minneapolis, Louisville, and here in Atlanta just to name a few have also presented opportunities for our children to witness firsthand the injustices that black people have endured in this county for centuries. While we have certainly discussed racism as a family in the past and its impact on society as a whole, I think for them actually seeing it for themselves has been an “eye-opening” experience and one that they will never forget. I have no doubt that these events have raised their consciousness and that they will use this as an opportunity to educate themselves and engage in efforts to change systemic racism.
For Carmen and me, this time has also presented a unique opportunity to grow closer in our marriage by spending time together on long walks in our neighborhood during which we are able to talk about the matters of the day, whether they are finances, intimacy, or parenting.
As we look back on this time as challenging as it has been, we believe are marriage and family will be better for it. This time has given us a unique opportunity to grow closer together as husband and wife and as better parents to our children who are now young adults.
Michael and Carmen Hughes Atlanta, GA